A Laughing Matter: How to Use Humour in Advertising

One of the best, most effective and most memorable things advertising can do is make the audience laugh. Whether they use slapstick, punchlines, plot twists, unexpected use of celebrities or even perfectly placed soundtracks, funny ads feel great.

In Orlando Wood’s Look Out, he digs into theories of humour to work out exactly why laughter is the best effectiveness medicine. Humour is flexible: it relies on inversions, surprises, twists in meaning and odd juxtapositions. That gets it the attention of the right side of our brains, whose ‘broad-beam attention’ is always looking out for stuff that doesn’t quite fit. The right brain understands metaphors, implications, sees things from multiple perspectives and gets the “point of a joke.” And, as Look Out shows, ads which get that right-brained attention are more effective at creating lasting impressions and building brands.

As we say at System1, ads should “entertain for commercial gain.” When we used our Test Your Ad database to analyse which types of happiness are the most effective for brand building, we found that amusement and schadenfreude (in other words, humour at someone else’s expense) come top of the charts.

Let’s take a look at a few ads that lean heavily into humour to see how they scored among the general public.

Five of our Favourite Funny Ads

28 April 2022

Specsavers, “Cat with No Pulse”

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29 April 2022

Cheetos, “Can’t Touch This”

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29 April 2022

Le Trèfle, “Emma”

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29 April 2022

Haribo, “Sweet Rugby Players”

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29 April 2022

Snickers, “The Game”

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Looking to make your audience laugh? Use System1’s Test Your Ad platform to see how your creative performs before you invest in airing it. Test Your Ad offers insightful recommendations that showcase the short-term and long-term potential of your ad to drive business effects, and our team of experts can offer guidance on improving your ad as well.