A little bit of humor goes a long way in campaigns

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We all love to laugh, but telling a joke takes courage, as anyone who has stood up in front of a group and tried to remember a punch line will agree.

The same is true in the world of advertising and marketing. A laugh-out-loud commercial, print ad or direct marketing piece can increase brand recognition and response, but it can also be risky. After all, what is funny to some may be inappropriate or offensive to others — although Geico's famed “cavemen” commercials have succeeded, ironically, by humorously portraying people offended by funny ads.

Still, adding humor to your DM creative can be a risk worth taking. I can attest to the fact that giving me a chuckle vastly increases the possibility that I'll remember a campaign. I was a huge fan, for instance, of Comcast's reverse psychology campaign featuring “The Slowskys,” in which a turtle couple preferred their DSL connection because they liked things to go slow. The Slowskys still have their own microsite, which drives readers directly to Comcast's high-speed Internet page.

The Sean Kimerling Testicular Cancer Foundation offers a humorous take on a particularly sensitive subject with five slightly silly, but seriously funny, videos featuring such messages as, “Don't forget to check the family jewels.” (see The Work, p. 21).

Our Private View contributor, Merkle creative director Joel Markquart, points out that this campaign was careful to appeal to its target audience of men in a way that it would appreciate. Truthfully, I also thought it was really funny, but I definitely see the guy-friendly nature of these clips.

The point is that, in an age of targeted campaigns and personalized content, it's now more essential than ever to understand what your audience wants to see and hear. If that is done correctly, a sense of humor — with the right tone and sensibility — can send you laughing all the way to the bank.

Contact me at sharon.goldman@dmnews.com

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