HUMOR in visual communication
Many of the most memorable
communication campaigns
around tend to be funny.
They use this strategy to attract
viewers to the message.
Audiences like to be entertained,
but not pitched.
Laughter is a release… and makes us feel
good - a positive feeling
Which would you notice - and respond to?
HUMOR in visual communication
People will pay more attention to
a humorous message than a
factual or serious one, opening
themselves up to be influenced.
The key to effective humor in communication is assuring the humor is
appropriate to both message and audience.
The balance between funny and obnoxious can often be delicate
One must be certain the positive effects outweigh the potentially
negative before a message can be presented.
Humor is used in many communication contexts…
How many Americans get most of their information about current political events
most of the time from the standup routines of late night TV talk shows?
Could Jay Leno be more influential on the "discourse in the public sphere"
than George Wills, Pat Robertson, Bill O’Reilly, or Jim Lehrer?
Do Leno and the other talk show hosts give the public all they really needed to know
in an efficient, quick, and humorous way?
President Obama just visited Jay Leno…
The best products to sell
using humor tend to be
those that consumers
have to think the least
Products that are
relatively inexpensive,
and often consumable,
can be represented
without providing a lot
of facts, and that’s where
there’s room for humor.
An example of an extremely successful humorous
campaign is the series of “Yo Quiero Taco Bell”
The star, a tiny talking Chihuahua who is
passionate about his Taco Bell, got people
repeating the company’s name across the country.
Another point to consider when using
humor in advertising is that different
things are funny to different people.
A commercial that may leave one
person gripping their sides from
laughter may leave a bad taste in
another’s mouth.
The target market must always be
considered - as well as the context in
which the message will be
What’s funny in a client presentation
may not be funny on an airplane, at a
country club or in a hospital.
Despite being wildly popular,
some Latin Americans accused
the dog of being a thinly veiled
ethnic stereotype.
Taco Bell denied this - but
stopped showing the dog in
advertisements in 2000.
“One of the major keys to a successful humorous campaign
is variety, once a commercial starts to wear out there’s no
saving it without some variation on the concept.
Humorous campaigns are often expensive because they
have to be constantly changed.
Advertisers must remember that while making the customer
laugh, they have to keep things interesting, because old jokes
die along with their products.”
Mark Levit is managing partner of Partners & Levit
Advertising and a professor of marketing at New York
Geico's market share was far below that of the big boys like State
Farm and Allstate.
Geico relies on direct-to-consumer sales (through a Web site or 800
number) instead of a network of sales middlemen.
While its competitors are running lots of dour ads that exploit our
fear of accidents, Geico stands out from the clutter with its oddball
humor and lighthearted tone.
The company has managed to inject fun into a product that we
resent having to buy and that we associate with miserable moments.
Humor as a Presentational Device in Broadcast Public Service Announcements.
Swanson, D. J.
On a daily basis, American television and radio audiences experience broadcast Public
Service Announcements (PSAs), each promoting "some kind of social or economic
action deemed beneficial" (Stridsberg, 1977).
Often, these announcements employ humor as a presentational device to help stimulate
the behavioral change needed to bring about "beneficial" action.
Five categories most commonly used in PSAs:
analogy, burlesque, caricature, parody, and satire
Some suggestions for using humor effectively in PSAs include:
1. verify that the campaign and subject matter are appropriate;
2. identify the target audience and campaign objectives sought;
3. use a single unified theme over and over;
4. employ positive reinforcement of behavior; and
5. bring media gatekeepers and community opinion leaders into the process.
The Lord Group, an agency in New York, took a different creative approach -- casual
humor -- to bring attention to a serious health issue.
A television campaign for the March of Dimes encourages women to take a
daily multivitamin with folic acid, which could prevent birth defects.
Avoiding a stodgy approach that would have, say, delineated the chemical effects of
folic acid, the commercials show a live stork arriving at an office to tell an employee
she is pregnant. As the visitor inches its way through the cubicles, employees react
differently: a woman tries to lure the stork closer with a sandwich and a man climbs
on his chair to avoid it.
''Humor gives it a more contemporary tone,'' said Penny
Redfern, an associate creative director at Lord, so ''you
don't necessarily realize it's a P.S.A.''
She said that to change the behavior of a target audience, ''you've got
to shake them up.''
''Just giving them the information straight, they're not going to change,''
she said.
Ad campaign uses humor to fight colon cancer
Polyp Man is the new villain in public service
announcements encouraging colon cancer screening.
NEW YORK (CNN) -- It's a bird. It's a plane. No, it's Polyp
Man, and he's no superhero.
He's the villain in a series of public service announcements
being sent out to television stations this week.
Dressed in red tights and a bulbous red suit, Polyp Man runs
from doctors in scenes reminiscent of "Cops" or "NYPD
The point of the ads is to persuade people to get tested for
colon cancer. The tag line for the ad is "Get the test, get the
polyp, get the cure."
Everyone over age 50 is supposed to get tested, but only
about 44 percent actually do, according to the cancer
The society estimates that half of all colon cancer deaths
could be prevented if everyone got screening.
The voice-over says, "Colon cancer almost always starts
with a polyp. Get the polyp early and stop colon cancer
before it even starts."
The comedic approach to a health issue is
a dramatic departure from tradition.
For example, in 1990, the American Cancer Society ran
PSA's showing graveyard scenes to make their point,
but the ads didn't work, Eyre said.
"We've done focus groups by the dozens
and people find it motivational," Eyre
said. "They get the message and
recognize it's colon cancer and are
supposed to go to their doctor and get a
He said only about 10 percent of the focus group
members objected to the ads for making light of a
serious subject.
A humor-based mass media campaign backed by the Bay Program that
urged people to “save the crabs…then eat ’em” successfully raised local
awareness about the Bay while drawing notice from across the country.
Further, the “Chesapeake Club” mass media campaign that was tested in the metro
Washington area this spring caused some people to alter the way they use lawn fertilizers,
according to a follow-up survey.
That was a surprise, given the modest $300,000 advertising budget for the seven-week
“We were able to move the needle in terms of behavior and awareness, and that in itself was
really quite an accomplishment,” said Judy Landers, project director for the nonprofit Academy
for Educational Development, which designed the campaign. “We honestly didn’t expect as
much of an impact as our survey said that we got.”
The aim of the campaign was to get people to postpone fertilizer use until
the fall to reduce the potential for springtime nutrient runoff, which is
particularly harmful to Bay water quality.
The campaign, launched in late February, implied that by reducing fertilizer use, people could
help save the crabs—which are susceptible to poor water quality—so they could be caught
and eaten. It used television ads, brochures, coasters, subway placards and other outreach
efforts, and enlisted a number of lawn care companies and chefs to promote the campaign.
Comparison Putting two or more elements
together to produce a
humorous situation.
Personification - Attributes human
characteristics to animals, plants
and objects. The Benson & Hedges
advertisement depicting cigarettes
engaging in human-like activities is an
example of personification.
Exaggeration - Overstating and magnifying something out of proportion.
Thirty-eight dollars in
change in your
checkout line. Don't
you just want to pinch
his cheeks? Speed
up slow transactions
with the super fast
TM-H6000 III receipt
Puns - Using elements of language to create new meanings.
“Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is!”
“It leaves you breathless.”
“Promise her anything, but give her Arpege.”
“I want my Maypo.”
“It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken.”
“Where’s the beef?”
“Mikey likes it!”
“Bet you can’t eat just one.”
“The dogs kids love to bite.”
“Leggo my Eggo.”
“Nuttin,’ honey.”
“Got milk?”
“Ribbit. Ribbit, Ribbit. Ribbit.”
“Can you hear me now?”
“Without us, some guys would starve.”
“iThink, therefore iMac.”
“What’s in YOUR wallet?”
“You are now free to move about the country.”
Consumer brands have always aimed to amuse, with promotions we all remember images and memorable slogans
Visual word play
One in a million
Last but not least
One thing after another
Try to figure out the phone number…
Funeral home services billboard ad
Sarcasm - blatant ironic
responses or situations.
Of course she'll take her
time in the checkout line.
That's, like, the perfect
place for, like, guys to
check you out. Speed up
slow transactions with the
super fast TM-H6000 III
receipt printer.
Silliness - ranges from making funny faces to ludicrous
situations such as the one created in the commercials for
Surprise - where humor
arises from unexpected
IN a new advertising campaign for computer printers,
Hewlett-Packard gently pokes fun at its own engineers
in an effort to make its technology seem more
The ads, created by Goodby, Silverstein
& Partners, propose wacky uses for
Hewlett-Packard printers and bear the
slogan ''Built by engineers, used by
normal people.''
Arlene D. King, the peripherals advertising manager for
the Hewlett-Packard Company, which is based in Palo
Alto, Calif., said: ''We are using humor to help humanize
the brand. We wanted to say something that would set
us apart, because in high tech it looks like everyone is
saying the same thing.''
In one spot, a baby-sitting grandfather
quiets his screaming granddaughter by
printing out a color copy of her mother's
face, pasting it over his own and rocking
her to sleep.
New focus
Hewlett-Packard's digital photography
products featuring the Kinks' song
"Picture Book"
Humor Pitch
The virgin wool joke is a
good one because it
mimics what some
people must think when
they’re trying to figure
out the difference
between one product
and another.
The tonality of this joke
fits well with the sternlooking stamped image
of Gert Boyle and the
casual shot of the socks.
You never stop
driving a BMW
Are there rules to using humor?
You decide, but consider the following 10 dos
and don'ts as guidelines:
1. Don't over-analyze a humorous idea. It's funny, or
it's not. As Mark Twain said, "Trying to figure out why
something is funny is like dissecting a frog. You'll come
up with answers, but the frog always dies.“
2. Don't use humor for its own sake. Make it
relevant to your objective.
3. Don't use humor to deceive or tell a lie.
It's a scientific fact that humor intensifies positive
physical and psychological reactions; deceit will
undermine these good feelings and supplant them with
anger and resentment.
4. Do use humor to entertain. People love to be
entertained. (What do you do in your free time?)
5. Do use humor to be thought-provoking, but not
6. Slapstick, irony and word play are techniques, but what is the idea/information you want to convey?
7. Do let your reader/listener/viewer experience the joy of "getting it." You'll make a friend.
8. Do engage the imagination of your customers.
9. Do the homework on your customer. Humor comes from knowing your audience inside-out.
Humor can be a powerful strategy in communication.
But remember...
Each culture has its own style of humor
Humor is difficult to export
Humor often involves wordplay and very colloquial expressions
Humor requires knowledge of a language
Understanding humor requires an in-depth understanding of culture
Travel ad
Summertime in
Avoid the following:
ethnic-type humor, stereotyping, sexist,
off-color, cultural, or religious humor
Political humor can be effective in certain
Be aware of the types of humor
appreciated by your various audiences
When in doubt, play it safe and avoid
Americans, in particular, begin speeches
with a joke. Take caution when taking this
style to other cultures
What information is being reinforced by humor here?