How to Create Funny Video Ads Without Compromising Your Brand

2020 underscored the importance of delivering the right message at the right time. Between the pandemic, civil unrest and the presidential election, brands had to navigate heightened consumer sensitivities. As a result, funny ads declined last year as brands pivoted messaging to avoid seeming out of touch with the national mood.

Prior to the pandemic, 20% or more of new spots recorded “funny” Ace Metrix Creative Assessment scores, but that number fell considerably in the months after. At the start of 2021, it rebounded quite a bit. Despite what was a lackluster Super Bowl, the game seemed to have spurred the comeback for ads that make viewers laugh. 

It’s understandable why brands shifted away from humorous messaging in 2020. The consequences of striking the wrong emotional tone or delivering a tone-deaf message can damage a brand’s reputation, alienate customers, and erode trust. That’s why measuring emotions in video advertising is crucial. From mitigating the risks of unforeseen blindspots to pinpointing which consumers are feeling what, pre-market creative assessment takes the guesswork out of emotional video advertising.

Based on a recent analysis of the 25 funniest ads from the past 5 years, we’ve uncovered the following tips to help advertisers create funny video ads without compromising brand image.

1. Be bold and edgy, but don’t take it too far

Creating a really funny ad takes bold, creative and edgy ideas that come close to, but don’t cross, the line. Consumers recognized ‘originality’ as a key characteristic of the funniest ads, as each also evoked reactions to the Ingenious* emo. Though, brands should be cognizant of when the Inappropriate* signal outweighs humor or when the Exploit* signal arises, and that cannot be done without measurement. 

For example, take the “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign from Snickers. Still going strong for over 10 years, the candy bar brand continues to deliver the iconic messaging in fresh, clever, and creative ways that strike a humorous tone with viewers.  A recent spot in the campaign, “First Visitors,” ranks among the 25 funniest video ads from the past 5 years.

2. Carefully consider the characters

Characters are the creative element that stands out most among the funniest ads (followed by the visual scenes). Thirty-two percent of the funniest ads feature celebrities, but that does not mean brands have to fork out big bucks for a star. Brands that are going for laughs should carefully consider who is cast and whether they can effectively deliver the punchline. 

Allstate’s Mayhem, played by Dean Winters, has successfully landed humorous messaging time and time again. Consumers have built up an affinity for the comedic character, who perfectly emulates whatever catastrophic disaster Allstate is conveying in its ad. ”Cat” is among the 25 funniest video ads from the past 5 years.

3. Don’t insult the customer

Brands should never insult their target audience — whether it is stereotyping or offending their intelligence with belittling jokes or childish humor. One auto insurance brand modeled its customer after the “entitled millennial” stereotype. Viewers across ages found this ad much more exploitative than funny. Among other poor performance indicators, this creative approach resulted in purchase intent 15% below the norm. 

Our latest guide explores the benefits of making emotionally charged video ads and how measurement helps marketers strike the right tone with consumers. Download the guide for more tips for landing emotions in video ads like the ones in this post.

*Ingenious — measures when viewers find an ad unique, original, and/or creative 

*Inappropriate — measures when something in an ad comes off as unpleasant or insulting to viewers

*Exploit — measures the negative impact, indicating when an ad offends viewers in some manner — whether that is via stereotyping, pandering, objectification, glorification, or bandwagoning. 


About the Author

Sammi Scharninghausen is a Marketing Manager at iSpot.tv. She covers brand impact, TV advertising trends and industry events. For questions and inquiries, please contact marketing@ispot.tv.