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Why advertising needs more humour

Last week, Dom Boyd, Managing Director of Strategy and Data Business at Kantar UK Insights, spoke at Brandweek Europe explaining that people’s enjoyment of ads has been steadily falling since the 1990s according to research by the firm. 

Boyd developed in saying that one of the main reasons is that the use of comedy in ads has diminished year on year for the last decade, even as humour is proven to be one of the most effective forms of communication, according to the research.

Sure, humour isn’t the only way to strike a chord but “it’s a damn good shortcut,” said Boyd. “There’s a crisis in creativity, and part of that is a humour crisis, if you like–or at least an emotional connectivity crisis.”

A great example of a successful campaign that encompasses these elements would be Johnnie Walker’s 20-year-old “Keep Walking” campaign which has proven to be highly effective internationally, according to Kantar’s research. While it doesn’t always use comedy, it still strives to garner an emotional response from consumers, said Chris Goddard, Johnnie Walker’s global marketing director. When the alcohol brand refreshed its “Keep Walking” platform with a new ad about 15 months ago, it was aiming to evoke “optimism” and “a tap of the foot” at a time of global turmoil, Goddard continued: “Emotion has many areas, one of which is humour. But we always … want the audience to feel something.”

Beloved British chocolate company, Cadbury, ranks in Kantar’s top 1% of effective advertisers and won the Grand Prix at the 2022 IPA Effectiveness Awards. The company rebranded five years ago to emphasise a spirit of generosity and kindness with its tagline, “Glass and a half in everyone.” Its subtler tone of voice and emotional storytelling stands out in the confectionary category and tugs at people’s heartstrings. 

To conclude, Boyd advised other marketers at the talk who want to increase effectiveness to do more early-stage development and research to find out how to “talk to real people” and forge stronger emotional connections. 

“We make this much more difficult than it is. This is about being populist,” he said. “If you can’t make people feel something, you’re dead.”  

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