Advertising can’t just be funny

Don’t get me wrong.  I like funny.  Most of my favorite movies are funny.  The TV shows I watch — usually funny.  And I appreciate a funny ad.

But…it still has to sell something.  That’s the ad’s reason for existence.  No company runs a TV commercial just to entertain the viewers.

So when I see TV spots like this one for the California Milk Producers.  But for the life of me, I can’t understand why they thought it would inspire anyone to drink more milk — let alone California milk. (email subscribers, click here to view)


Am I missing something?  Did watching this spot make you run to the fridge and pour a cold glass of ice cold milk?

My big issue with this series of TV spots is that it doesn’t even try to sell us on the benefits of the product, make the brand of the product cool or…even show the product.

Contrast that with the TV spots for Mike’s Hard Lemonade.  They’re funny but they’re also talking about the product. (email subscribers, click here to view)


AdAge and their partner Bluefin Labs have been studying how we react to TV spots in terms of social mentions.  Their findings — we TV viewers are beginning to view commercials as movie shorts and it’s pretty clear that TV viewers are increasingly willing to talk about ads in the same way that they talk about shows: as bits of entertainment.

All the more reason to make sure your TV spot (or any advertising for that matter) keeps its eye on the prize — selling your product or service.  If the viewing population is more likely than ever to talk about you, I’m thinking you want to give them something besides the funny parts to talk about.

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13 comments on “Advertising can’t just be funny

  1. Michael Albert says:

    I think the point here is a reminder to parents that kids love milk.

    1. +1 for that Micheal 🙂

    2. I’m not sure how they think they’re doing that. I don’t see kids drinking milk or doing anything related to milk, other than chatting with a talking cow.


  2. Interesting, I am going to have to check out the AdAge study.

  3. Anika Davis says:

    Advertising has a great influence in the buying process of customers. Thus, it is very important to make your advertisement sell.

    Who don’t love to have fun? No one right? Yes, funny ads do really attract numbers of viewers but not buyers.

    Thanks for this one Drew!

  4. Elaine Fogel says:

    Drew, I can’t stand those dumb milk spots! How about the one where the cow gives positive feedback about a woman’s jeans but says she needs to do something about her hair? OMG!

    1. Elaine,

      I know…not only do I think they don’t sell milk, but I think they’re dumb to boot. Makes me just shake my head.


  5. Michael Albert says:

    It seems to me that the cow in the kids’ room spot is targeted to parents as a ‘funny’ reminder that kids love cows (therefore milk). The kids are not afraid of the huge animal and she in fact plays with them in their room. Not funny at all to me (a parent of 3). But I think I understand what’s going on. This would not in the slightest get me to buy milk, more milk, more dairy products. It’s not in the “Got milk?” or ‘milk mustache’ category. God knows what the client paid for the spot and its airtime. I think I also understand Drew’s pain. So many bad broadcast commercials are just plain stupid and after a 1/2 hour of TV or radio, it becomes painful and even offensive. I can’t figure out how clients would let a spot like ‘cows in the kids’ room’ convince them that spending money on this fodder will make them money and/or help strengthen their brand. I guess in attempts to appeal to the mass market, client and agency are (no offense meant to fowl folks) chicken to go beyond ‘stupid’ at this point in time. And, I admit that I still drink milk (NF) everyday.

    1. Michael,

      That’s where I always go — how did the agency actually sell these to the client? And how much money went right down the drain?


  6. Ads are designed to build name recognition, and eventually, after being seen on a consistent basis, build a relationship with the viewer. Humor is a great way to jump start this relationship, too.

    1. Michael Albert says:

      John, using humor as a driver for branding isn’t the issue. Humor in advertising is a delicate method of attracting a viewer’s/listener’s attention to the client’s product. Done right, it achieves success. Always has been and likely always will be.
      Because humor is in the eye of the beholder, it can be commonly misinterpreted or just plain not humorous. Many people will not get the joke. And bingo, you lose market share. If it’s good stuff, which is risky, you have a hit. Advertising humor also needs to be well suited to its audience. But if your customers/prospects don’t get the joke, then the joke will be on you. Use with caution.

    2. John,

      I agree — humor can be a great way to jumpstart a relationship but the humor should also help the prospect take one step closer to purchasing. I don’t think these spots do that.


  7. Addy Johnson says:

    These are funny ads and very right about these funny advertisements it helps in getting good response and secondly people remember these and tell their friends and family about these… cheers..

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