Why have the last twenty years seen a drop in ads using humour?

Why have the last twenty years seen a drop in ads using humour?

According to Kantar, the last twenty or so years have seen a serious drop in ads using humour.

The case in finance appears to be even more dire. We could thank the 2008 banking crisis for a dip in trust and therefore a push in the industry to be seen to be a tad more earnest.

Only 33% of the ads researched incorporate some form of humour, yet half of Kantar’s Creative Effectiveness Award winners use it. Add to that a study from Oracle that found 90% of us are more likely to remember an ad if it’s funny. And, 48% said they didn't feel they had a relationship with a brand unless it made them smile or laugh!

So why are we so afraid of a good guffaw? Well it seems very few of us are equipped. 85% said they didn't have the right tools or insights to successfully deliver humour in their advertising.

Personally, I don’t buy the excuses. Humour has a unique power to break down barriers and connect people on a human level. Whether wit or slapstick, humour can blow the doors off cultural and linguistic boundaries, drive fame and build bonds.

What do you get if you cross pink frilly fun and a serious issue?

In a world filled with serious issues and divisive rhetoric, humour serves as a unifying force, offering a moment of relief and levity amidst the chaos. But we still seem to think that severity is the much more powerful tool in campaigning and hold it in much higher regard.

Take the contrast between Barbie and Oppenheimer. While Oppenheimer may be lauded for its serious subject matter and cinematic craft, Barbie was dismissed by some as frivolous entertainment. But which one changed the way we approach brand promotion? Which was a global cultural moment where audiences joined in the fun? Which one is quoted ad nauseam?
Hi Barbie! 

By underestimating the value of “light-hearted” content, we overlook the skill and creativity required to effectively execute humour. And we underestimate its impact.

Funny is hard, and crafting a genuinely amusing advertisement or film requires a deep understanding of human psychology and cultural nuances.

That’s why those who do it will reap rewards. As they say, smile and the whole world smiles with you.

And speaking of the rest of the world…

Here's a few examples of funny done well.

I love that countries like New Zealand, US and South Africa (my homeland) are happy to be just that bit bolder with the bahahas in finance.

Barbara from Bank World is a genius creation from ANZ Bank that recognises all the things about banks we detest and all brought to life in one woman. To personify an abstract series of issues with service and lay them bare as mini entertainment works, it’s great fun to watch and totally memorable.

Shifting continents, South Africa has a long history of treating insurance with humour.

King Price Insurance runs ad after ad using pun-based ridiculous humour. Every single one a masterpiece in its own right. You end up loving the brazenness of the brand. Insurance and love in the same sentence? Must be a joke.

Staying in the rainbow nation, Budget Insurance ran a brilliant ad about faf-free Insurance utilising World Cup Rugby hero Faf de Klerk.

The American ad for Wealthsimple Crypto is also great fun and well executed with humour.

Closer to home, at Teamspirit we’ve co-opted cultural references of the hippie movement for asset managers with “ All we are saying is give yields a chance”. We’ve told the public to “Tell your savings to get off their AER”. And more recently we’ve re-energised the pensions market via the chaos and humour of Timmy Mallet.

None of these are afraid to be funny or fun.

Nobody's shying away from puns, and watching them you feel like the creators really enjoyed what they were doing as well. Possibly we’re just too British when it comes to money to do the same?

It's time to recognise that humour deserves to be taken seriously in banking, investing and insurance advertising and comms. We should celebrate its ability to entertain, educate and inspire. And, bluntly, deliver change. Whether it's a campy advertisement or a joyous film, humour has the power to bring people together, challenge conventions, and spark meaningful conversations. And nowhere could use more of a laugh than financial services.

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