Thursday, March 11, 2010


In the stressful times we live in, laughter – well packaged – can be a huge high and the ultimate bridge between a brand and its consumer

Once upon a time, the staid, starched and propah’ Ad-Gurus believed that advertising was deadly serious business and people don’t buy from clowns! But over the last decade, this thinking has been buried amidst wild laughter with humour taking on a superstar’s role! Why? Because humour and fun have become the breath of life in a lot of the advertising we see and advertainment is pretty much the new lingua franca in the communication delivery mode. Why? “Because humour disarms and makes one more accepting of certain thoughts and images that could be hard to take in a serious discourse,” says adman George Louis. He has constantly hit out at “scientific fools, marketing windbags stiffass bureaucrats, research fascists and pompous biggies” because he believes a lack of humanity (read: humour) kills great communication. People don’t respond as target consumers or demographic cross-sections. They respond as ‘him’ or ‘her’. You and me.

Louis says he finds a huge ra-ra constituency totally rooting for the Ha-Ha factor to attract, interest, provoke, desire and trigger the purchase intent in the consumer universe targeted. Ad film-maker Prahlad Kakkar, who began his foray into ad films by providing (at that time) a total break from conventional reason with audacious tongue-in–cheek, whacko stuff [It’s different, Boss!] believes humour is a great leveler because it breaks down barriers and distances in one fell swoop. Prasoon Joshi (whose Thanda Matlab & Happydent white ads plug humour with all cylinders firing) defines humour as a social lubricant that’s easy to catch and hang on to because it’s the most basic emotion. It comes easier than sorrow or grief. Successful recent TVCs that have hit the humour button include Centre Shock, Zoozoo, Fevicol,, Fastrack among others.

People around the world often find “compression” a good way of getting the point across in an effective manner. Arnold Schwarzenegger was once famously described as a guy “looking like a bunch of walnuts wrapped in a condom!” The writer confessed that he wasn’t consciously trying to be funny – only endeavouring enough to convey something in the least number of words. If compression leads to humour, then humour lead to a smile. Legend has it that a Chinese hospital reported a dramatic drop in the number of complaints after instructing their staff to show at least eight teeth while smiling at patients!

On a serious note, the reason why humour is so powerful in advertising is really very basic: it’s a bridge that links the brand to the consumer, because laughter is still the shortest distance between two people… and a smile, really, is that amazing meeting of minds. It signifies a positive and physical feedback from your audience. Wit invites participation. Humour ensures higher recall and memorability, and triggers word-of-mouth communication as no other mode can. Incidentally the best jokes aren’t based on imagination, but on observation of real people. See how they speak, gesture, react, joke, even kiss, and oh, how they never look at each other in a lift. Anything’s really funny as long as you know how to use the situation!

Everything considered, humour makes people more conducive towards the brand, socking it a solid “feel-good” factor, presenting super-high comfort levels… all of which makes it easy to connect with the brand in an effortless sort of way. It has been noticed that beyond any sales tool, humour invokes a special kind of collective intimacy that is hard to match. Remember, logic can make you think a product is a sensible choice, but only humour can make you lean towards it, invite participation that triggers a joyous recall. Fish swim. Snakes bite. Pandas eat bamboo. But hey, only humans laugh! Laughter is the common currency that humans use to make life rock, and advertising – for its turn – is perpetually pressing the H-button to persuade people in believing that their products and services make for a better life… So the alliance of the two is really a match made in heaven!

In a tense and pressure-ridden world that we inhabit, humour in advertising is getting to be increasingly an intrinsic part of the process largely because advertising as a form and the way it is consumed has radically changed. Says Santosh Desai, “It is undoubtedly an unwelcome and intrusive medium but what has happened in the last few decades is that we have consciously trained people to become consumers and see the world largely from a consumption filter. The strike-rate overall has been pretty good. In earlier times, the 8-reasons-why-you-should-buy-this, delivered in BBC-style English, worked. Today, it doesn’t. People are not looking for gyan but fun, entertainment, a laugh. No heavies.” This has led to substance and content being forced to take on and entertainment spin… Why go far? Isn’t news (presented and packaged – in both print and television – in a stylish, glossy and eye-catching manner) entertainment? Woo, romance, seduce, dazzle, threaten, warn, beg, plead, tease – but for heavens – entertain! If you want to grab attention or eyeballs, what better way than tickling the funny bone?

Today, in a world brutalised by pain, poverty and human suffering, stress, pressure and anxieties, the creator of funnies are the new superstars, because all said & done, even the most hardened sceptic & cynic will agree that, at the end of the day, humour is way better than tumour!


No comments:

Post a Comment