Tips for Using Humor in Advertising

November 28, 2023

When we say “Where’s the Beef?” What do you think of? Probably the classic Wendy’s campaign from the 1980s. Or how about Clydesdales playing football? You (hopefully) think of Budweiser. Humor is a global element that cuts through boundaries of culture, age, and gender, and fosters profound, emotional connections. Used correctly, it gets people talking, makes businesses memorable, and creates favorable associations with viewers. 

Let’s look at some helpful tips for including humor in your own advertising.


Know Your Audience


Understanding your target demographic in depth is the key to effective comedy in advertising. What makes them laugh out loud? What are their pain points? Make sure your humor speaks to their issues, values, and interests.

For example, if you want to sell to tech-savvy millennials, clever humor using internet memes might be the way to go. On the other hand, a more subtle, conventional approach might be more successful if your audience is older and more traditional.

Be Authentic


When using comedy in advertising, authenticity is crucial. Insincerity can be easily detected by audiences and harm your brand's reputation. Make sure your comedy fits with the personality, values, and overarching messaging of your company. Humor can help you stand out in a congested market.

Keep it Relevant and Timely


Successful comedy in advertising (and usually in general) depends on being timely and relevant. Your advertisement may be more relatable and interesting if you relate your humor to current affairs, popular culture, or other relevant topics.

For instance, when the lights in the stadium went out during the 2013 Super Bowl, Oreo capitalized on the occasion on Twitter (now X). "Power out? ", stated the tweet. “No issue. Even in the dark, you can still dunk.” This witty reaction not only attracted attention, but it also demonstrated Oreo's ability to react to a live event quickly.

Strike a Balance


While comedy can be an effective marketing technique, it's important to maintain balance. Do not overuse humor in your advertisement to the point where the call-to-action or message is obscured. The humor in the advertisement should support, not take away from, its main message.

For instance, Geico's well-known "Gecko" advertising campaign strikes a mix between fun and spreading the word about insurance discounts. In addition to engaging viewers, the character's clever repartee and amusing circumstances successfully communicate the brand's value.

Test, test, and test again


Testing and iteration are essential to hone your use of comedy in advertising, as with any other marketing tactic. To gauge the reaction of the audience, conduct focus groups, collect feedback, and monitor analytics. Analyze the forms of comedy that your target audience finds most appealing, and change your technique as necessary.

Keep an open mind about changing your strategy as time goes on. What is humorous today could not be as funny tomorrow, because comedy trends change. Keep an eye out for cultural shifts and be open to modifying your strategy to ensure your advertising is current and effective.

Using humor engages people in a positive way and leaves them feeling good about your brand. Increase the success of your advertising by knowing your audience, remaining real, staying current, striking a balance, and continuously testing and refining your strategy. Keep in mind that a well-placed joke can make a lasting impression and distinguish your business in a crowded market.