A Message Enjoyed is a Message Remembered

woman laughing cluthcing hand of another person

A Message Enjoyed is a Message Remembered

Humor in advertising makes smiles and sales!

My favorite ad of all time is a cracker!

It’s a nice-looking suburban house. The front door is ajar. We go through and eavesdrop on the conversation.

There is a group of women. One is talking. You can’t hear what she’s saying exactly, but it’s funny.

Then it becomes hilarious.

Everyone is laughing and it’s not fake laughing. These are sleeve-ripping, arm-clutching, and belly laughs.

Tears jet from their eyes.

They try to talk to each other. They can’t. They’re literally falling about the place.

There’s no voice-over.

At the end of the scene, all we are given is a logo. That is how we make sense of it.

In an advertising sense, laughter is also good for sales.

The American Psychological Association has found that laughter breaks resistance to negative influences.

In a double-punch benefit, positive brand associations are created because the consumer has had an enjoyable emotional response.

Those who laugh are defenseless.

A few years ago, I was an in-house copywriter for all sorts of banking products. I did some freelancing on the side. My clients were serious and complicated service-based companies.

What did they all want?


I loved my work and I had a sarcastic mind that always thought of darkly humored things to say that are totally inappropriate.

It’s a gift.

Or, should I say, it’s a curse.

One wicked Wednesday, I was struggling to come up with a creative concept for selling a home loan that had nothing much going for it.

The interest rates weren’t any better than anyone else’s. I needed a unique selling proposition.

There had to be something unique. I only needed one thing.

Aha! There were no monthly fees.

I made a sensible (read: boring) mock-up to pass up to the manager.

Then I let my sarcastic inner child off the leash and made a ‘wild card’. I passed that one on too, as an extra one to ‘consider’.

The wild card headline was:

<Headline>Zero. Zip. Nada. Diddly Squat.

<Sub-head> However you say it, it means nothing.

Get a home loan with X, and you get nothing.

No account-keeping fee… No establishment fee. No blah de blah.

Prose about benefits going back to members, not stockholders. A call to action.

I waited while the mock-ups passed along the corridor of power.

I felt embarrassed. Vulnerable. Foolish.

What had I done?

Eventually, I heard the unmistakable hoot of the Chief Executive. The delicious sound of laughter wafted through the air.

It was the wild card!

I felt euphoric. Giddy with excitement.

It got a full-page placement in the local newspaper!

Being the graphic designer as well, I decided what better way to display the ad than surrounded by a generous cushion of white space?

Left-aligned so it looked serious, with a hefty left and right margin, air at the top, and air at the bottom.

Like it was floating in space.

It looked like a mistake.

A mistake that would get attention. And offer relief.

A message enjoyed is a message remembered.

Unexpected Funny Ads

I love to place cheap classified ads where no one would suspect.

For a first home buyer’s home loan, I placed a classified in the For Lease section.

Can you guess I was a frustrated tenant?

<headline>AAA Rent Trap

Hideous carpet. Funeral parlor-style ambiance.
No pets. For no particular reason.
Get out of the rent trap. Buy your own place.
Discount rates for first-home buyers.
Call 02 0900 XXXX

And another text-only ad for children’s savings accounts:

For her birthday last year,
money wizard Donald Trump gave his mother:
an island in the Caribbean,
a red Ferrari convertible,
and a two-hour foot massage from Robert Redford in a hot spa.

Isn’t it time you opened your kid’s MoneyBean Accounts?
…basic product details and CTA followed

(I copied the format from a tennis camp ad I once saw. This was in the early 2000s so we’ll before Trump’s presidency. Remember there’s no copyright on ideas.)

Tips for the fellow humorist copywriter

1. First, make sure it passes the ‘pub test’. 

The pub test is an Aussie term that means what the collective ‘everyman’ thinks. The ‘everyman’ isn’t stupid, nor is he very intelligent. He is an average Joe.

Assumptions make an Ass out of U and Me

I have made assumptions that people will understand what I think is obvious. I have often been wrong. That’s the risk we take to play. Minimise the risk by testing.

Get lots of opinions and listen to the opinions of a range of people. Do they get it? If it is confusing, discard it. Confusion is death. Lots of people equals a more accurate Everyman.

2. Don’t offend people.

Just don’t. Racism, sexism, bullying, ageism, swear words, misogyny those things are almost always off-brand. Off any brand.

Humor is beautiful. None of those things are beautiful.

I had a checklist to ensure everything complied with federal and state laws and were not offensive to different groups. I needed it. It saved me embarrassment over and over.

3. Stand out.

You want to make fingers pause. The scroll to stop. We want eyes to roll up, down, over, and land bottom right in the call-to-action position.

Be different. White space gets attention. If it is appearing in a place saturated in color, go black-and-white. And vice versa.

4. Measure and tweak

Measure the number of calls, clicks, and sales. It’s great if you can get real-time data so you can adjust your creative on the fly. If necessary, and the message isn’t sticking, you can abort.

For an integrated campaign, do the letterbox drop at the end when the message has been honed to perfection.

5. Data points, not failures

If the ad doesn’t make sales, it’s not a failure. Dan Koe says it’s a data point. I like that. You can learn from a data point.

As long as you know your target audience will like it, that’s all that counts. Not everyone has to like it or even ‘get it’. If your target can ‘close the loop’ and participate in the ad for it to make sense, that is even more rewarding for them. They get a nice little hit of dopamine.

Make sure you incorporate the product into the punchline.

Humor is delicious when it works!

Some researchers have said humor doesn’t work in high-involvement decisions like finance and B2B.

I disagree.

Humor almost always works. That’s because the decision maker in nearly every purchase decision is a human.

And humor is a great connector if it is done well.

Humor replaces the stress hormone cortisol with better neurochemicals: dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins.

Laughter is contagious.

At the end of my favorite TV commercial, everyone watching the ad is laughing too.

I still don’t know what they were laughing about. The ad only makes sense when we see the logo fade in at the end.


Depend is a brand of incontinence pad.