How to Create a Hilarious and Effective Ad Campaign

Dec. 1, 2019

Humor is a great way to catch the attention of would-be customers through advertising. A national agency professional explains how to find that perfect laugh.

The fall season came and went, and with that go the shop marquees with the perennial offering of pumpkin spice oil changes.

Alternatively, it’s always in season to display a message of “free oil changes for Teslas.”

Both have been popular wisecracks for marquee signs, and to good effect. They get drivers to take one more look at your shop and maybe even stir up a bit of a conversation about your business on social media or among friends.

On any medium, humorous ad campaigns have been a staple strategy for as long as businesses have advertised. Whether they’re irreverent, low-key or just plain silly, it’s the funny ad that often has the best chance of creating a buzz around your business.

Parody is another style for a humorous ad. In one television ad campaign for a Pennsylvania Ford dealership, the agency JKR Advertising and Marketing spearheaded a commercial called “Painting With Rob” in the style and hairdo of famed TV painter Bob Ross. 

The campaign won JKR a Telly award for use of humor in 2019. The automotive ad agency’s work nationwide in other advertisements, as well as media and market analysis, have won awards as well.

A lot of planning and work goes into making a humorous ad appear smooth and easy in publication. To get a glimpse inside that process, NOLN reached Richard Brauns, senior partner at JKR, to hear about what it takes to develop a truly great humorous ad.

When you begin working with a client who’s looking to stand out with a funny or unorthodox ad campaign, how do you get the ball rolling and brainstorm ideas?

We enjoy going this route with any client who has a sense of humor. But we also let them know ahead of time that, because humorous ads often create emotion in the minds of the receivers, every now and again they might run across someone offended by one of their ads they see on TV or hear on the radio.

It does not happen often, but it does happen.

We are always careful to never cross the line between funny and offensive, but you also don’t want to err so much on the side of caution that you produce a dull, mundane ad that will never move the needle.

What are the essential elements of a really funny ad campaign?

First, if you’re going to attempt to be funny, you’d better be funny! You want the ads to be memorable for the right reasons so people will talk about them with their families and friends. To accomplish this, it does require more than just good copy, though this is an excellent place to begin.

You also need top-notch talent and production quality. And you still must make a priority of emphasizing the product or service you’re advertising (giving reasons why they should buy from you and overcoming built-in objections). If you don’t, you might have made someone laugh but they won’t be able to recall whose commercial it was.

It is also of utmost importance to set up a media buy that has the correct mix of reach and frequency, to ensure it’s seen a sufficient amount of times by the right audience. After all, even the most clever ad, if never seen or heard, is irrelevant.

What can a print ad campaign do that a video/TV campaign can’t (and vice versa)? What are the strengths or weaknesses of either medium?

By its very nature, TV gives the viewer a “multi-sensory” experience no other media can match. The combination of sight, sound, movement and emotion is a real attention-grabber. So whether it’s for 15, 30 or 60 seconds, you get that amount of time to reinforce your brand and include an offer or call to action that motivates a potential customer to take action while using the most powerful form of media available.

You also get the benefits of reach and frequency discussed earlier, something direct mail can’t give you. In addition, because TV is an intrusive form of media, you don’t even have to be actually watching it for it to be effective.

For print, in addition to a lower price tag, studies show that the printed word is perceived as being highly credible. If you use it as a secondary form of advertising, it reinforces the brand message well when done properly. If you are sending a direct mail piece to your already-established customers, it can be a wonderful brand-loyalty customer retention tool, it allows a company to keep in touch with its clients, and it can also motivate a procrastinator to take action. 

If it includes a compelling offer or an article that is of interest to the receiver, they will keep it around for future use. And people typically will, at minimum, look it over closely because, let’s face it—people still love getting mail.

How do customers react when they view a successful ad campaign? What’s the return like for a client?

When we have a successful campaign, they know fairly quickly by their sales figures throughout the month that our efforts are paying big dividends, and that’s what makes them happy.

Courtesy of SpeeDee Oil Change & Auto Service
Photo 46741793 © Alexandr Demeshko |
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Photo 13766790 © Wavebreakmedia Ltd |
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