Friday, June 29, 2007

Laugh and the world...

Someone once said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people”. If your job is to try and make connections with consumers, then that thought has to make you sit up and take notice. We start to laugh when we are around four months old – and (most of us) don’t stop. What an amazing human quality laughter is. Contagious, relaxing, sociable. There’s even academic research that reveals that laughter is how we show we want to be friendly. With all that running in its favor, who’s surprised that advertising has always used the power of laughter? Check out for recent examples from around the world.

I’m thinking about laughter right now because I suspect that what makes us laugh, like everything else, is changing. It is no longer enough for advertising to throw funny lines out to an audience like a desperate stand-up comic. At best that becomes boring, and at worst it alienates people altogether. From what I see, humor today is becoming more interactive. Now, that does not mean you put a funny story up on the Web and we all vote for the punch-line that makes us laugh most. What it does mean is that the tone of humor is shifting. It’s tending to become more ambiguous, more random, and to me, more emotional. Those emotions often play with our embarrassment or simple confusion (TV shows like The Office or Curb Your Enthusiasm have got it absolutely right) on behalf of the characters.

We are more like participants in the action rather than observers, and the emotion of empathy is absolutely central. This is why YouTube thrives on people sharing what makes them laugh with their friends. Humor brings us together, allows us to drop our guard and open up to new ideas. If you want to make connections with people, what better place to start?


Kempton said...

Hi Kevin,

Love the truck ad that you included as I might have even linked to it previously in one of my post.

Now, I am so glad that your "The Office" link is to the UK one. I just love the UK BBC version so much more. May be it is first love?

And Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant created Extras is extremely good too.

IMHO, both The Office and Extras work because of Ricky and Stephen's deep understanding of the everyday men and women. Their understanding of the "human condition", if I am allowed to use this big idea.

Susan956 said...

Kevin.. Well, well, well.. At first I thought this was going to be an easy one..and then I watched some of the

I love the ref to academic research. Thank you for that :)

I loved The Office. I think these shows have been successful because they take what we can so readily experience in our own lives and caricature the same. The humour isn't contrived as such. It's contextually relevant and so scores hits with us.

If you've ever had an older female relative like Hyacinth Bucket in Keeping up Appearances you will love that show because it allows you to sit back and be totally amused about a scenario that, in real life, drives you crackers. The Office is somewhat the same.

I often love talk back radio humour when people can ring in and talk about odd/funny/unusual experiences simply because real life is WAY more interesting, (there are caveats), than what is contrived. I listened to one recently where people were talking about situations where others eating around then drove them mad. You could hear feel yourself saying openly "That drives me nuts too!!" and becoming really involved in the vignettes.

I did also laugh at the topic because I was telling a community member here yesterday of my experience..wait..I'll describe it..

I left a bank in an area that can be prone to snatch and grab and is replete with homeless etc asking for money.

I walked up the street towards one such gent sitting on a milk crate.

He asked everyone, and I mean everyone, for money. Not..


When I told my son later he laughed and said..well..there ya can serve to dress like a bag lady.

I laughed too.

I can see the ad now..the same scene played coming home..ripping away the outer layer and having something oh so tres cool underneath. Not funny as such but it may make a point.

Now for the serious stuff. I believe corporations and advertisers have a corporate responsibility to community. SOOoo...against that, whilst I found the Nissen ad funny (and I have wanted to do the same thing at times) given road rage issue and the terrible outcomes of some of those, I could not support that ad.

As equally I did not support a telco ad showing illegal downloading of music to a youth market even tho the ad was zappy and trendy.

Being funny and taking advantage of the real aspects of life does not mean trading off corporate responsibility (In my view).

Well..errrr....anyone ever been in a public toilet and suddenly ran out of paper and.... ? :)

CONSUL said...

How about a smile, Kevin? Doesn`t the enigmatic smile of the Gioconda produce a less ephemeral result than a knee clapping joke that makes you laugh only once?

How many times have you been forced to laugh being in a group of friends one of which is the funny guy telling jokes?

On all weddings, on al travels, on all social events, there is always a funny guy, the clown, the joker, the one who feels he must entertain the party.

Relegate advertisement to ambiguous and emotional sensations resulting in easy laughing or playing with your emotions instead of intelligent fine humor that stimulates your brain and provokes a conspirational Giocanda sneer is indeed the tendency, which I deeply deplore.

Advertisement is the mirror of Society, or is Society the mirror of Advertisment?

Piotr Jakubowski said...

I was brought up with the notion that laughter is also the best medicine. And looking back on what I've done so far, I think laughter has been a very important aspect in keeping me in line (and sane).

I'd have to agree that laughter is the shortest distance between two people. As are smiles. Both of these see no gender, ethnicity or religion. And that is what makes it beautiful. Have you heard of the laughter yoga clubs and schools popping up worldwide? ( I have had the chance to attend a group event such as this in Indonesia a few weeks ago. Although I had woken up at 5 am to attend, after the event was over, the vigor for life that was instilled with me was amazing. And it was all natural. Take that science.

I also agree with you about YouTube. It has become such a great channel to share things of interest, and funny videos with friends and family. More importantly its a channel that has broken down barriers between people. Although people argue that the internet has put up barriers of communication between people in terms of less face-to-face time (to a degree I agree with this), it has also broken down barriers. Let's hope people use this global network to its fulest extent.

Susan956 said...

Well..if a drink flavour was going to make you about a turkey and gravy soda..or..a broccoli casserole flavoured soda? I kid you not..take a look. I was highly amused at the caption "just like mom used to make" *grin* I dislike brussel sprouts with a vengeance so you can have my brussel sprouts and prosciutto one... :)

Susan956 said...

piotr.. Would it be fair to say two things about YouTube..well..three

Firstly (in my opinion) it has broken down barriers for people who have access to it (there are people without computers)

Secondly YouTubers themselves have helped extend audience by taking examples into other more broadly used media online e.g. news services

YouTube (and ilk) have pushed the envelope on copyright etc and have challenged concepts of information knowledge and ownership


piotr and Consul you both make points about smiles. Certainly light and shade is vital. If all ads were knee slappers we would stop laughing and the ads would become noise.

But there is nothing wrong with the occasional ad that really makes you laugh. Would I roll about laughing at most of the ads depicted. No. I am more a Mona Lisa to broad smile kind of person. you think your cultural background sometimes influences your aesthetic views? I am sure global advertisers have to consider changing ads for different countries and different ways of being.

CONSUL said...

I must of course admit laughing is a very positive issue and nothing to critic about. Youtube has been a revolution in global emission of individual expression.

Susan: sure you hit the bull`s eye by considering the advertisement`s effect has a direct relation to cultural background: geography, religion, politics and idiosyncrasy influence different reactions, thus ads can`t be idem in different countries.

Consider also specially the formation: generally spoken the quality of humor has a direct link to the quality of formation, education and respect.

The tendency is an evolution towards clumsy, vulgar and rough humor, which I deplore, but probably that`s the toll we have to pay for welfare and democracy?

Susan956 said...

I had an I Love Luci moment this afternoon. Is there a male parallel?

Sitting working on something and heard a sound..looked to the right and foam was pouring out of the sides of the dishwasher. I've never lived in a place that had a dishwasher before and could not believe the efficiency of the machine and what its agitation could do to a streak of ordinary dishwashing liquid in a bowl.

I wound up needing to scoop hand fulls (after handfulls!) of foam out to enable the machine to keep progressing, laughing the whole time about Luci and seeing her in a similar moment.

Power to yon machines agitation! It may whip up a mean mousse yet. :)