Getting humour right starts with diversity in the writers' room

There has been a growing reticence to use humour, with many brands choosing to elicit a more wholesome or even sombre tone.

It's no secret that humour is an incredibly powerful, sometimes even magical, quality.

It appeals to our human instincts; we're naturally drawn to people who make us laugh. It's endearing and it connects people, making it a compelling tool for brands. In fact, research from Kantar shows that humorous ads are more compelling, more involving and more distinct.

In the same way that we like to be around funny people, we naturally enjoy interacting with funny brands. Yet there has been a growing reticence to use humour and be playful on social or in advertising, with many brands choosing to elicit a more wholesome or even sombre tone.

Why? Frankly, it feels safer. There's widespread fear that making a joke, entertaining or being playful in an era of radical uncertainty could be perceived as offensive. Therefore, many brands are steering clear of humorous themes, especially with societal and social edginess.

While on paper this may look to be the more secure route, brands are missing out by overlooking the power of laughter. Magic is created when the humour that brands use represents the day-to-day experiences of real people. Maltesers', "Look on the light side of disability" spot showcased a funny take on a fictional wedding, a fantastic example of a mainstream brand centring its narrative on realistic human experiences. To get this right, the creative writers' room needs to reflect the audience we're trying to serve.

...Read More
Breaking out of the echo chamber

Traditionally, humour comes from a place of hardship. It brings a lightness to life and shines a funny gaze on a challenging situation. And this is where our industry struggles. We limit ourselves by often having too many people with similar lived experiences in one team. Today, if we don't bring more diversity to our agencies, and especially our creative departments, we risk not recognising when an idea or a line in a script crosses the line between fun and unacceptable.

It's a tough challenge to be funny for a mass audience that is increasingly diverse and unforgiving when things are crafted in an echo chamber. That's why we need to see the fabric of the talent pool in creative departments shift faster than it has.

Thankfully, we have seen some progress in industry departments becoming more representative of our society and inclusive of people from all walks of life, but we still need to do more. In doing so, we will see creative teams offering new perspectives and fresh, entertaining ideas that will appeal to vast audiences. Ideas that will, hopefully, even make them laugh.

...Read More
The power of humour

Times are tough for many dealing with the aftermath of Covid, the rising cost of living and the impact of the war in Ukraine. But when there is doom and gloom, the brands that provide escapism and connect with their consumers in a lighthearted way will prevail – and what better way than a laugh for that.

Humour needs an element of surprise, a zig-zag, to work. It can be a volatile ingredient and may have a shorter shelf life – although there are always those few gags that I go back to that make me laugh every time – but when brands get it right, they get more freedom, engagement and love from consumers.

Wendy's has built a reputation for championing humour and being bold and sassy from its super ads to its social media presence. The brand has championed moments like #NationalRoastDay, a Twitter moment dedicated to poking fun at other Twitter users, and other brands. As a result, it has built deeper relationships with its consumers.

And when it comes to moments of long-form genius, I love the ever expanding series from Apple's "Underdogs". Taking us from pre to post pandemic, the humour has remained so close to the truth it actually hurts. By being bold enough to opt for humour and finding a way to resonate so well with your audience, brands can create new and lasting connections.

Building this humorous brand personality is a proven driver of engagement. And it all starts by creating the right, diverse environments within agencies and brands. Done right, humour is an incredibly effective and powerful way to engage audiences and strengthen relationships with consumers. Now is the time for advertising's underdog to take centre stage.

Laurent Simon is Chief Creative Officer at VMLY&R




This article was originally published in Campaign.

...Read More