Cookies remember you so we can ensure to give you the best experience possible. By using this website or closing this message, you are agreeing to our cookies and policies

Do not show this message again
UK Insights

LOL! The importance of humour in advertising

Jane Ostler

Global Head of Media, Insights Division

Brands 22.10.2018 / 17:00

laughing lady

As part of our #WhatWomenWant? Initiative, we look at where advertisers could improve their tactics to engage women better – and find that a good laugh could help.

What’s the number one characteristic that advertising needs to have for people to enjoy it? No joke, it’s humour.

This truth applies across all age groups, and particularly with younger people: two thirds (65%) of Generation Z audiences globally say that humour is the most important creative enhancer of receptivity (that is, how much they are likely to enjoy the ad in question), according to our AdReaction research. The next most important characteristic is music, followed by the ad having an interesting story.

  • SAVE
  • Close



    Copy the following code to embed the chart into your web page, Blog or BBS.

AdReaction Engaging Across Generations 2017

There’s an even bigger demand for humorous advertising amongst female respondents. Of Gen Z women, 68% value humour over all other characteristics, versus 60% of Gen Z men. Women in other age groups tend to value humour in advertising more than men, but with a less dramatic difference in the numbers. So it would be fair to say this topic fits nicely with our current initiative celebrating 100 years of marketing to women: #WhatWomenWant?, a series of events and an exhibition in London from 21 to 29 November this year.

The rise and fall of funny ads?

We know that when advertising is designed to elicit an emotional response, it becomes more memorable, and this correlates to sales impact. So what’s preventing more humour in advertising?

It would be absurd to suggest that men and women have wildly different approaches to comedy – it’s not only men laughing at mainstream comics, and it’s not only women who enjoy the (all too occasional) female members of comedy panel shows. But, of course, the approach you take to comedy in advertising will be driven by the type of brand you are and the type of customer you want to attract.

NeedScope from Kantar TNS identified six types of humour for brands: the childish prank, the shock value, the put-down, the everyday laugh, the innocent smile and the clever wit. Each style relates to a different “emotive needstate” – and the framework can help to find the right type of humour for the brand.

As a result, there are a lot of brand approaches to “humour”, depending on their brand promise, their propensity for risk, their target audience, and the channel being deployed. For example, there are the dry, witty quips of the Economist posters, there’s the slightly 1970s “nudge nudge wink wink” style of the Nescafe ads, and the more raucous Pepperami “Bit of an animal” tagline. There are very few laugh out loud ads.

Humour doesn’t have to be a laboured shaggy dog story; it can be quick, simple, and visual. Some of the funniest examples have been quick turnaround responses to PR situations: the FCK ad when KFC apologised for running out of chicken won many awards (rightfully) for its painfully honest and funny approach.

Can you use humour in videos that are very short? I’ve seen 6-second ads that make me laugh (Bounce fabric conditioner being a great example), but they are few and far between. The craft hasn’t caught up with the format.

There are ways that marketers and agency creatives can learn the skill of delivering humorous ads – the build-up and the release of tension that comes from a good “punchline” – but if women make up your target market, there is perhaps more you need to consider than simply joining a comedy writing course.

The elephant in the room

When we spoke to Funny Women founder Lynne Parker for the Future Proof podcast, she talked about two issues in advertising that are pertinent here: one is the lack of women creatives, media planners and scriptwriters. The second is this shocking statistic from Unilever and the #SeeHer campaign: just 1% of ads show women being funny.

As Lynne commented, there is no lack of funny women who could step up and write, direct, produce or star in your next advertising campaign. And, with more than 80% of women across Europe responsible for most household purchasing decisions (according to Kantar Media TGI data from March 2017), the cost of not making funnier ads? It’s really no laughing matter.

Source : Kantar

Editor's Notes

Come along to our exhibition celebrating the last 100 years of marketing to women, What Women Want?

Which products, campaigns and adverts were considered empowering to women at each point in history? As we mark the centenary of the first women being granted the vote in the UK, what can brands learn from these standout examples? 

This is an ambitious Kantar UK initiative that is open to all from 21 - 29 November in London. Find out more at

Latest Stories

The latest grocery market share figures from Kantar show year-on-year supermarket sales grew by the fastest rate since November last year, at 0.7% over the past 12 weeks.

As an industry, we like to make annual predictions… but what are we getting wrong? Matt Muir tells us what to ignore, and what we’ve missed.

Jane Ostler and Margo Swadley discuss the trends and changes in media, including TV, radio, social and esports.

Discover what makes a strong brand in 2020 with the new Best of BrandZ compilation.

The latest figures from Kantar show the grocery market achieved modest 0.3% growth during the past 12 weeks.

Related Content