I was recently asked by one of our sales reps to write a ‘funny spot’ for their client – I had to grit my teeth – writing humour is not a strong point of mine – it takes a LOT of work to make an ad sound funny. But I had to remind them that the object of a radio ad, funny or not, is to get people to buy the product or service being advertised.
While it is okay for the listener to respond “That’s a funny ad” what I want is for them to say “That’s a great product, I’ll look for it”
Humour should not only showcase the clients product, identify it so it stands out, give them at least one key feature and also – not bury the details after the punch line has been delivered.
How do you do that and still make people buy – as I said – it can be very hard to do – sometimes you can get lucky and find something that you can easily write to – other times not so much.
Rather than go for generic joke – should you try to identify the joke so that the product and joke go hand in hand – yes!
Here are some advantages and disadvantages of using humor to sell a product in a radio commercial:
- Comedy or jokes can make the ad memorable and stand out among other commercials. One I wrote for a glass company was about living in a glass house – and it wasn’t a pretty sight! People still remember it 5 years later on.
- It can create a positive association with the product in the minds eye of your listeners. We had a vet clinic who wanted something to make light of pets getting fixed – the ad was very positive, listeners loved it and they reported a 150% increase in bookings. With people able to quote the ad back to them!
- Humour can help to lighten the mood and create a more positive emotional connection with the listening audience. One spot (I was in a team of writers for this one) was so clever, so insightful that listeners loved hearing it – even though it was for a funeral service company.
- My favourite thing to try to do is to use it to create a memorable catchphrase or slogan that becomes associated with the product. Coming up with a jokey tag line is amazingly hard to do – but when it works – it works.
Now: The disadvantages are many, but lets look at the basics:
- It can be subjective, and what one person finds funny, another may not. This can make it difficult to appeal to a broad audience. And once you get a complaint – you better get ready for more of them.
- It can distract listeners from the product and the intended message of the ad. Having the punchline too near the end close of the ad – can make people laugh, and miss the contact/product details.
- Some people can be view the ‘joke’ as unprofessional or inappropriate for certain products or industries. I have tried to work comedy into an accountants radio commercial (and they asked for it) but when they heard the finished agreed to product – chickened out because they thought it made them sound unprofessional.
- If the humour of the ad falls flat or is poorly executed, it can actually have a negative impact on the brand and the product being advertised. I have heard this happen so many times it makes me cringe now when I hear an attempted comedy ad.
If you really want to hear some great examples of comedy ads – then this years nominations for the Radio Mercury Awards is worth checking out. This years awards are dominated by funny commercials – see the full list RIGHT HERE on the Mercury site.
So, let’s wrap this up: Writing a funny ad is not for clients to do (and sometimes they really try). It’s not for amateurs either. As any professional comedian will tell anyone who will listen – being funny is serious business.
Even if you think as a copywriter that you are a master joke teller, the life of the party and can write a funny and successful ad – seriously think about what you are about to commit to the airwaves – will it really work in the way that it is intended? Really?