Funny doesn’t sell well

July 25, 2012

Apparently, other people were pondering the same question I was last week when I asserted that advertising can’t just be funny.

Now — a recent study is showing that funny doesn’t really sell well. One in five TV ads are funny, and Super Bowl ads are three times funnier than the rest.

But none of this makes much difference in selling stuff, according to new research by syndicated ad-testing firm Ace Metrix.

Funny ads do get more attention and are better liked. But Ace Metrix found funniness had little correlation with effectiveness in a scoring system that incorporates watchability, likability and persuasion among other factors.

In fact, funny ads were slightly less likely to increase desire or purchase intent than unfunny ones. Those same commercials were less likely to increase desire or intent to purchase than commercials that played it straight. In other words, funny ads are useful for entertaining viewers, but are not the most effective way for advertisers to convince those viewers to buy the product.

This study takes the first-ever large-scale, scientific look at the role of humor in video advertising. According to the study, entitled ‘Is Funny Enough?’, consumers found 20 percent of more than 6,500 TV ads that aired between January 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012, to be funny.

Consumers found ads from Doritos to be funnier than any other brand (6.4 times funnier than average), and Target to have more consistently funny ads than any other brand, with 85 ads above the Funny Index average.

So before you go for funny, ask yourself what your ultimate goal is. If it’s sales — perhaps you should consider a different avenue.


Photo courtesy of BigStockPhoto

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Advertising can’t just be funny

July 16, 2012

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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Mix your media for best results

October 3, 2011

This is not a new notion but when you’re buying/using media — use more than one vehicle and when possible, blend how the information is ingested.  In other words, I see/hear your TV spot (or YouTube video), so add in a print element or something online that I can read.  Access more of the audiences’ senses for more impact.

Having a media mix is very old school but it’s as relevant today as it was back in Ogilvy‘s day.  Add that age old wisdom to today’s new truth — 75% of Americans (and I find it hard to believe we’re the only ones) watch TV and surf the web at the same time.

All the more reason to have a media blend in play.

A new study by Nielsen reinforces this idea and reminds us that this impacts recall as well.  (link to Business Insider story) They found that advertising on multiple platforms substantially increases consumers’ ability to remember an ad campaign compared to when the ad is viewed on TV alone.

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Nielsen findings support the idea of having a media blend or mix.

In a media lab study conducted by Nielsen, participants viewed related content across a TV, computer, smartphone and tablet. A 15-second video ad promoting a premium sports sedan was shown to different groups with some people seeing no ads, and others seeing the ad on different combinations of screens.

In the group that was exposed to TV ads alone, 50 percent of people correctly attributed the ad to the correct auto brand. For groups that saw the ad across all screens – TV, computer, smartphone and tablet – the ability to remember the brand jumped dramatically to nearly three-in-four (74%).

What does this mean for you and me?  It means we need to be smart about how we utilize media.  Follow these guidelines to take advantage of these insights:

Mix your media: Be sure you are cross promoting your message by having a URL in your print and broadcast ads.   Share your radio and TV spots on your website.  Use QR codes to drive your mobile audience to unique content designed for the mobile experience.

Use the strengths of each media/human sense to really drive your core messages.

Don’t think it’s all about the money: Keep in mind your Facebook fan page, your website/blog, Twitter, etc. as you build your media plan.  Work on placing trade pub stories (online or in print) and getting others to share your content.

In today’s world — keep in mind that isn’t just about paid media.  This is media you buy (advertising), own (your own sites) and earn (public relations) combined.

Deliver the same core messages on all media: Don’t get cute and have different messages for different media.  The execution may change — but your core message should be consistent across the board.

Remember, you are building impressions so stay 110% consistent.

Interesting isn’t it?  The more newness there is, the more the time tested foundational truths about advertising ring true.

How has all of this new media changed your philosophy?





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Someone has to hate your brand

April 10, 2011

A brand…if it is going to be effective, has to be bold.  It has to stand for something.  It has to plant a flag into the ground and stake out its territory.  A brand cannot be neutral.

Your brand loyalists will love you. But, there’s no ying without the yang. In other words, if some love you, others will hate you.  You can’t be everything to everyone and be a strong brand.

Which is of course, why we have so many “mushy middle” brands — companies who are afraid to take a stand, so they try to be everything to everyone.  Or they try to be a liger brand…a little bit of everything all mashed together.  At McLellan Marketing — we tell clients, be bold or go home!

No graphic states this more eloquently than Kathy Sierra’s visual below.

Love, love this explanation of why your brand can’t live in what we call the mushy middle!


Which is why I *love* the new Miracle Whip campaign.  They’re basically calling us out — and saying, you either love it or hate it.  Declare which side you’re on.  They totally get that some people absolutely hate their product.  And they’re fanning those flames.  Why?  To get the people who love their product to take a stand.

Check out their current TV spot and enjoy smart branding.  But then come back… because of course, we need to talk about your brand.



Okay — time to look at your own brand.  Can you define who hates you or at least who should?  And don’t get all “people who don’t want quality” should hate us.  Lame.

Seriously — it’s time you step out of the mushy middle and be brave enough to take a stand.

By the way — check out all of these stories, stats and results from Kraft’s gamble on the Miracle Whip brand.  Do you think they would have generated this kind of buzz if they did a mushy middle “everyone loves us” campaign?

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What sells better — the future or the past?

February 14, 2011

Is this the future or the past?

Here’s what I am pondering today.  In terms of connecting with a consumer’s emotions, what works better — pointing to the future or the past?

I’m 48 (albeit a 10 year old boy trapped in man’s body) which puts me a little behind the line in terms of baby boomers and a little ahead of the curve for Gen X.  But I’ve noticed over the past several years that many advertisers are reaching back into my childhood for inspiration.

The music of my youth, classic toys like slinkys and key moments in my life’s history seem to crop up in TV spots, print ads and headline references.

On the flip side, many advertisements promise us a better future, thanks to their product or service.  From the his and her outdoor tubs thanks to Cialis or the joy of an engagement accepted via Kay’s Jewelers — we do love the pictures they paint.

Do we react more strongly to memories of days gone by or the promises of days not yet experienced?  And which makes us pull out our wallets?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic.  Which do you react to more strongly?

I got thinking about this idea after reading Harry Beckwith’s most recent post over at Psychology Today. (read it here) about progress.  I began to wonder if it was the emotion of the future’s promise or the actual realization that mattered most to us.

Speaking of Harry — I have 2 copies of his new book Unthinking  that I highly recommended last week to give away.  I’ll do a random drawing among the comments on this post… so don’t be shy, weigh in.

The past or the future — which one drives right to the wallet and why?

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