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An Advertisement and a Target Audience Walk into a Bar.

Andrea Janiszewski

July 25, 2017
Andrea Janiszewski

The Power of Humor in Marketing

It’s no secret an advertiser’s job is to create an ad that will attract the consumer’s attention. Some advertisers try to accomplish this by pulling at your heart strings. Others try to do it by having a celebrity endorse their product. But the bold do it by adding humor.

Humor is fundamental to forming positive relationships. It’s simple: we buy from people we like, and humor is one of the fastest and most effective ways to achieve likability.

We have all seen our fair share of failed attempts to achieve humor in a campaign. It’s a hard thing to pull off. We all think we have a good sense of humor, but few are talented enough to write and produce content that appeals to a large audience.

The Vampire Effect

Many commercials fail by focusing too much on trying to be funny. This leads to what’s known as the Vampire Effect.

The Vampire Effect is when an irrelevant idea or element in an advertisement sucks the attention away from the product being sold, leaving the audience unable to remember the product or brand. For instance, take Mountain Dew’s 2016 Superbowl ad “Puppymonkeybaby”.

Consumers may walk away with a catchy tune in their heads. However, they’re left without any idea of the product that’s being sold – just nightmares about a creature with a baby’s legs, a monkey’s body, and a pug’s head.

The Risky Side of Funny

Everyone’s sense of humor is different. What might be funny to you is not guaranteed to be funny to others, and might even leave them offended. Let’s look at Dorito’s Super Bowl 2016 advertisement “Ultrasound”.

Don’t get me wrong, you definitely walk away from this commercial remembering Doritos. But you also remember looking at a fetus in a placenta, which doesn’t exactly spark a craving for their chips. Also, when your ad revolves around something that could be considered controversial, such as a fetus, you run the risk of igniting anger and dispute among your audience members.

The Happy Medium

When done well, humor in advertisements not only makes people laugh, it makes them pay attention to the product. In State Farm’s 2016 advertisement “Furniture,” they did just that.

State Farm chose to use a scenario that is dynamic and different, making it memorable. The product was the key element at the end of the commercial, ensuring that the message was not lost in the joke.


Humor is a great tool for distinguishing a product or service. When used well, it creates a strong connection between a company and its customers.