Friday, October 23, 2015

Advertising The Humorous Way!

“I am one who believes that one of the greatest dangers of advertising is not that of misleading people, but that of boring them to death.”
 ~ Leo Burnett”

With this thought in mind we take a perspective on the advertising of today – the way it has changed to employ techniques that not only pitch a product to the people but also aim to entertain them in the process and win laurels.
Advertising in the due course of time has changed leaps and bounds. The traditionalist theory of keeping advertising and humour as distant as possible is no more accepted. Gone are the days when humour was branded risky for inclusion in advertisements and was believed to hamper the product image than redefine it.
In today’s advertising industry, humour is considered quintessential to effective communication with the targeted customers. It is being increasingly used by brands all across the world, including India, to redefine the features and objectives of their product. The trick is striking the right balance between humour and content in the advertisement so as to tickle the consumer’s funny bone and yet convey the purpose and usefulness of the product. The objective is simple but definitely not easy – to translate consumer gratification to consumer loyalty.

The reason why humour works?

We must note the fact that, of late there has been a shift in consumer orientation. More and more consumers are believed to be more impacted by light-hearted funny commercials rather than dull ‘no-nonsense’ types. The reason is quite evident - humour gives the customers a latent feeling of entertainment which shifts the balance in favour of the brand. Rather than being blatantly pitched about a product, consumers prefer to be entertained. This grabs the attention of the people and in the process opens them up to be influenced about the product. In effect, humour serves as a liaison between the viewer and the brand .This is the single biggest factor that makes humour so effective in advertising.
However, having said that, a really arduous task for the advertisers is to convey the right message to the viewer. They should not get completely lost in the theme of the commercial and side-line the core message. The message to be conveyed should be effective and bang on. The key here is devising humour that is appropriate and germane to both the consumer and the product. The demarcation line between humour that’s relevant and one that gets obnoxious is thin and hence should be dealt with utmost care and delicacy.

Know your target

Humour, by nature, is subjective - different people have different humorous dispositions. An advertisement that makes a person laughing his heart out and gripping his sides might offend someone else to the extent of disowning a brand. This makes it imperative for the advertisers to know their target customers well, so as to not end up offending them. This becomes even more important in a culturally sensitive country like India. Humorous ads, therefore, must ensure that the cultural sensibilities of any group are not encroached upon while trying to be humorous. The idea here is to carefully tread the line between being funny and being imposing.

Why some ads work?

Let us examine a few of the most successful and humorous ads in the Indian market which were loved by the people for its content and by the businesses for its efficacy and impact.

Naukri.com
– This is one of those advertisements that communicate directly with the target segment. The Hari Sadu ad campaign was very effective because it gave the job hunters a vicarious sense of being in that position and dealing with grumpy bosses. The commercial showed a grumpy assertive man reprimanding his junior colleague at work. At the same point a women informs her of call for a hotel reservation. Unable to get through his name, the boss turns furious. It is then when the junior colleague turns to offer help and spells out his name – “H for Hitler, A for arrogant, R for rascal, I for idiot, that’s right”. It leaves the boss simply dumb struck. This idea of portraying the image of a relentlessly nagging boss, who is full of ire all the time, struck chord with the youngsters who perceived their bosses similarly. It turned out to be one of the most successful ad campaigns for Naukri and did wonders for them. The commercial, however, because of unmindfully targeting a specific name also garnered some opposition.

Pidilite’s Fevicol – Fevicol has been a pioneer in making advertisements that make the people laugh and at the same time convey the utility value of Fevicol. Out of the many successful Fevicol ads, the one that beckons a mention here is the ‘Moochwali’ ad. Fevicol celebrated its 50 years with this advertisement which shows the lifecycle of a woman who has a ‘mooch’ (moustache) stuck to her all her life after she participated in a school competition and got the moustache glued using Fevicol. The advertisement takes you through all the phases of life of this woman – adolescence, youth, adulthood, old age, death and finally rebirth. Clearly, it helps the viewers to connect and identify the longevity of Fevicol as an adhesive on the completion of 50 years of being a successful product in the market. It befits the utility of the product perfectly, so much so that the ad etches in the viewer’s memory.
In addition to these there are a host of brands like Imperial Blue, Center Fresh, Mint-O Fresh, Fevikwik, M-Seal, and Happydent White etc. that have used humour as a necessary ingredient in their ad campaigns to attract customer attention. 

Interestingly, there has been a gradual change in the use of humour in Indian advertising. There has been a subtle change, of late, in the type of humour employed. People have become more receptive and the trend is fast shifting from pure slapstick or exaggerated humour to more individualistic and novel comedy. A typical example in case is Vodafone and its Zoozoo campaign. Every Vodafone advertisement today features Zoozoos vividly depicting a humorous scenario which ultimately highlights upon a service offered by Vodafone. The acceptance and popularity Zoozoos have gained in the past is a testimony to the effect they have had on the people. Such comedy with an individualistic bent is what many brands today are trying to emulate.

It happens globally – some supporting figures

Not just India, humour is used as a tool to advertise products internationally as well. Globally about half of all ads (44%) fall in one of the two categories – ‘light-hearted’ or ‘funny’. It is even more so in the North American and European regions where funny advertisements constitute 52% and 49% respectively of the total number. The graph below gives a clear picture.



Source: www.milwardbrown.com
 
 
Advertisements with humour are also easier to remember and hence have a greater impact. For example, in the North American region a whopping 69% of the ads that are known to have had ‘High Impact’ on the people are more on the funnier side. On the contrary, of the total number of ads that are categorised as ‘Low Impact’ in the same region, only 38% have some humorous content embedded in them. This clearly brings to the fore the fact that most of the effective advertisements have some humour quotient in them which appeals to the people.


 A word of caution

Everything said, utilising humour in advertising is delicate and one needs to be cautious that the humour employed does not dilute the value of the brand or the product being offered. One needs to ensure that humour is in accordance with the product and relates directly to it. A typical example of perfectly placed humour is the famous Happydent advertisement where individuals chewing Happydent gum were used to light up spots in the king’s palace - from the hall to the dining area to the ball room - due to their incandescent whitening smiles! Had the humour in the advertisement been misplaced the effect could have been largely different.

If the humour doesn’t embed a positive image of the product in the minds of the viewer it can very well happen that the people have a great laugh, enjoy the ad but forget the product altogether. This would defy the entire objective of advertising because the end outcome expected out of any form of advertising is increase in sales.
The second aspect to be cautious about is the idea to be conveyed which should be very clear and striking so that the viewer doesn’t struggle to connect to it. This also becomes important because ads perceived with a wrong message can do more harm to the product than good and result in negative promotion which is a nightmare for any brand.
Advertisers must also note that advertising through humour is an expensive exercise and should be regularly revisited, revamped and re-launched because old jokes tend to lose the sheen like old brands do.

Conclusion
Thus, humour from an advertising perspective is a mixed blessing. Though it has some downsides, the upsides far exceed them. It not only helps the product to reach in the customer’s green zone of wilful consideration by creating more brand awareness but also builds on the brand loyalty quotient because of the permanent humorous imprint it leaves on the individual’s mind. Humour has always caught attention - everyone loves to laugh and stay cheerful. Whether or not the advertisers are able to build upon it depends solely on them and the underlying brand.

Pseudonym : h!v
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