The most common types of humour used in advertising

This article examines the most common techniques used in humorous advertising and identifies the key situations in which these techniques can be implemented.

Humour has become a mainstay of advertising campaigns and has proven to be one of the most effective methods ever devised for selling products and creating a positive brand image. In this article we look at the most commonly used techniques in funny commercials and advertising mediums.

The most common humour technique used in advertising is juxtaposition. Juxtaposition involves putting two or more elements together or comparing them to create a humorous analogy. For example Hewlett Packard ran a clever advertisement featuring a Christmas picture “ruined” by a teenager dressed as a punk. The print ad then showed an image modified using Hewlett Packard’s PhotoSmart software with a more idealised teenager. This kind of juxtaposition can be used effectively to create or expose a problem that the product can solve.

The second technique we turn to is personification. This technique involves attributing human characteristics to things without them. The best recent example of this is Evian’s Live Young advertisement which personifies babies by making them into active young teenagers. This cleverly adjusts what we might consider a normal situation or activity to create positive associations with vitality and youth.

Thirdly we have exaggeration whereby you extend or stretch the reality of a given situation or characteristic to over emphasise a particular point or point of view. The simple premise is that you make something seem better or have a much greater effect than it does in reality. This allows you to encourage a very positive view of a product whilst making people laugh at the exaggeration itself.

The fourth most common technique we encounter in advertising is the simple pun. One of the most well-known of these is the WKD commercials – which use wicked as a pun for the acronym WKD. This simple technique helps to instil the brand name in to your mind and create certain associations through the humour used.

Fifthly we come to sarcasm. Sarcasm is basically taking the mick of something or someone and using their faults against them in a mildly derogatory way. Sarcasm is generally employed situationally to reveal an interaction between one or more parties and has proven effective at creating humour by espousing situations many of us can relate to in some way – or saying the things that many of us don’t ever have the courage to say ourselves in a given situation.

Akin to sarcasm but slightly differently implemented we have silliness. Silliness simply makes humour out of a ridiculous or farfetched situation or occurrence. Silliness has associations of fun and a laissez faire attitude to life so has proved highly effective at selling luxury and personal products. Silliness often uses everyday situations and makes them ridiculous in order to highlight our own silliness and ultimately to sell products.

Finally we have shock. Shock can either take the form of a surprise occurrence or shock in the form of an unexpected saying or situation. Surprise is used effectively in many commercials to ridicule a person’s situation or lot in life. Shock is used to create surprise through an unexpected occurrence. This technique is used effectively to create positive product associations – with the implication of “buy this and avoid this situation/occurrence.

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