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An insight, a strategy and a proposition walk into a bar...

Updated: Aug 1, 2022

Recent D&AD New Blood Yellow Pencil winner Taylor Orford, copywriter partner of Lily Shackleton and recent graduate of Leeds Arts University, has a bone to pick with brands advertising and it's a funny one. Taylor's reminding us that laughter is one of the most successful and effective reactions you can have to anything, but particularly an Ad. If your idea or words can make a stranger, stop, laugh and smile, you've already beaten 98% of every other ad out there.

When advertising has become most of what we consume, consciously and subconsciously, does it now have a responsibility to also enlighten someones day, even if it's just a bit? Taylor thinks yes, and I couldn't agree more. Below is Taylor's view, from a snippet of her University project, which has also been published in BBH Labs.

(Written by Taylor Orford)

Everybody likes to laugh.

Humour is known to be one of the most important building blocks of social interaction; it sets us apart from other species and effectively is a part of what makes us human. In today’s society, we operate in an overworked, stress-filled culture where humour is a necessity.

We also live in a society where we are constantly bombarded with advertising. It's all over our social media, we hear it on the radio and we pass it on the street. In one 45-minute journey, the average London commuter is exposed to more than 130 adverts, featuring more than 80 different products.

If humour is a necessity in our current society, brands have a responsibility to make us laugh when they disrupt our day-to-day so often.

However, comedy has lost its influence among advertisers. Now, with social media and other channels available to advertisers, advertising content spanning media with a capacity much longer than a 30 second TV spot allows brands time to build an emotional connection with the audience, as opposed to resorting to slapstick comedy.

Despite this, brands owe us a laugh. With adverts invading our daily routines at the rate they do, we as consumers do not need to be drawn in and thought-provoked every time we look out of our windows on our phones. The public want to be entertained, and as humour is a necessity in this day and age, it only makes sense to do it through the format of media we consume so regularly, adverts.

When asked if participants would prefer for brands to stick to selling their products and stop trying to make us laugh, 85% said they would not want this, as they enjoy humour in advertising. Some of the reasons given to why they enjoy it so much were; ‘adverts are boring and annoying so a bit of humour makes them a bit more bearable’, ‘I think adverts are boring and if it’s funny it’ll stick with me more’ ‘humour is good for the soul’. An overwhelming majority of answers stated or implied that adverts are mostly boring, so they appreciate it when one makes them laugh, even if they are not interested in the product.

We can give brands the benefit of the doubt by understanding that to appeal to audiences globally, humour is not always the best option. With social media and the ever growing social platforms that brands have to advertise on, their reach can be exponential. To combat mass audiences over multiple cultures, funny ads aren't always going to land everywhere.

Despite understanding this hurdle that brands face, there must be ways to appeal to specific audiences by culture. The British public have a very specific sense of humour, so British brands have the obligation to appeal to the British public in this way. It seems that it is a matter of ease for brands to avoid it, and as a society we should demand more from them.

As a response to the findings of this research paper, a self directed brief has been devised which seeks to provide consumers with a ‘no-strings-attached’ laugh as they view the advert, a campaign that speaks for consumers and not at them. The brand is the Yellow pages, and it aims to bring to life a forgotten British brand via the use of British comedy.

Written by Taylor Orford

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