Monday, January 26, 2015

Marvelous Typology of Advertising Humor

In the Internet Age, attention has emerged as a commodity more valuable than gold.

With the ever-accelerating speed and pervasiveness of communication applications and devices, amplified by more people doing more things and more things that communicate, people attempt to make sense of increasingly indistinct pieces of information competing for attention.

This explains the popularity of cat-related imagery as a viral phenomenon.

When it comes to information, we value surprise and enjoyment. Thus far, in the Internet Age, cats are the meow.

That we value surprise and enjoyment, also points to the long-standing prevalence of humor in advertising. But, as with cats on the Internet, not all attempts at humor are necessarily effective.

Aristotle is said to have said, "The secret to humor is surprise." Indeed, Aristotle distinguished among causes of humor such as ambiguity, violation of laws, irrational behavior, and unexpected outcomes he called "marvelous" events.

Taking our cue from the great philosopher, here is my five-part Typology of Advertising Humor.

Altered States

Laws of nature are immutable, so breaking the rules is a guaranteed to surprise. In advertising, of course, the broken rule must point to the product benefit.

Ripping Off The Arts

Authors and artists give us the ideas through which we see and articulate our understanding of life and the world around us. Through books, poems, paintings, songs, movies, videos, and so on we come to understand our world through memes, metaphors, and messages. Surprise comes when we unexpectedly collide one idea with another. In advertising, the realization must give life to the product benefit.

Slap Shtick

Whatever the situation, we generally know the proper behavior expected of us. Broad physical humor taking everyday action to unexpected extremes is known as "Slap Stick" comedy. The situations can involve one or more people. To get an advertising kick out of it, the joke must "foot" to the product benefit.

Exaggerated Claims

Think of this approach as hyperbole on steroids. The audience recognizes the improbable outcome of a familiar event, yet there is permission of believe the product benefit will be every bit as good as one might hope.

Strained Expectations

There are ways of thinking and speaking we strongly associate with particular goods and services. The meanings of such terms and frames of reference are so clearly understood in one realm that when transported to an unexpected product category the surprise can be the basis of an important realization about the product benefit.

This coming weekend presents a "marvelous" opportunity for you to try out my Typology of Advertising Humor. It will be Super Sunday, and of course humor will play a large role in the creativity of the advertising we see.

How many examples of each of the five forms of advertising humor will you see? Which commercial do you see as most attention-getting, most enjoyable, and likely to be most effective in the marketplace? Let me know what you think.

Advertising is always fun. Enjoy the advertising and the game.

Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

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