It Pays to be the Funny Guy: The Power of Humor in Advertising

With the inevitable doom and gloom that surrounds the world, humor is a tool that often keeps one from leaping off of the proverbial bridge. In advertising, it becomes a way to engage the audience to keep coming back for more. What better way to push a product to a specific demographic than to give a little love tap to the funny bone?

Remember the Wazzup campaign for Budweiser that aired religiously in 2011? Ok I may be aging myself with that example, but at the time, the silly product promotion had my generation mimicking the tagline during phone calls to each other. (Was texting even a thing then? Ok now I am really aging myself.) Though I do not recall the campaign actually causing me to go out and purchase Budweiser, it certainly became a well-known commercial and standard phrase between peers.

Fast-forward to the modern age and humor is still used as a powerful device in the advertising field.

GEICO Insurance has been a frontrunner in hilarious advertising campaigns for over a decade. Through the use of satire, GEICO has poured billions of dollars into their advertising budget to create memorable commercials that leave their viewers in stitches. Notable series include the GEICO Gecko, Rhetorical Questions, and my personal favorite, the Cavemen advertisements. So has using humor helped GEICO’s profits? You bet cha. According to, GEICO’s outrageous spending on the campaigns and stellar agency work to create them, had increased the company’s premium income by 11.2 percent in 2013. Imagine the numbers in 2017.

The eco-friendly and natural food industry have also seemed to jump on board with reaching their target audiences through humor. Kia rolled out their eco hybrid model, the Niro, during the 2017 NFL Superbowl with a commercial featuring actress Melissa McCarthy and her attempts to save the earth and Applegate sold us with the importance of choosing hormone-free, all natural deli meats. Both spots stress their message while tickling the funny bone.

So how do you reach audiences who do not watch traditional television? Chances are you are still exposed to audio or video advertising campaigns on the web, apps, or streaming radio such as Pandora or Spotify (if you opt out of the premium memberships to eliminate the ads). Take Charmin for example. Their Shiny Hiney song plays about six times a day in my office and although no one wants to think about using the bathroom, the catchy tune sure does stick in your head. With that kind of brand recognition, why wouldn’t consumers be more apt to reach for their product over others at the grocery store? They may even be secretly singing the commercial while making the purchase.

To sum it all up, being the funny guy pays off. Of course it is important to know your audience and company but if getting a few belly laughs is appropriate, we say go for it. Couldn’t we all use a little more humor in our lives?

Honorable Mention:

This DU Telecom commercial induces cringe-worthy convulsions with its take on the less than flattering side of humanity. Pit hairs, pimples, and flatulence all make an appearance while brilliantly orchestrated to a classical score and stellar videography. Gross humor has never looked so good.