Monday, 31 March 2008

London Gentleman

Well, I shall be venturing in to London for the rest of this week, enjoying agency visits and an interview along the way.

If you see a man in a stylish sweater vest, feel free to give him a job....and some better accommodation...

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Anything but Guns and Roses

Humour in mainstream advertising - a sack of thinkings

Humour is a great tool. My favourite adverts, TV shows, computer games, Youtube videos and websites are usually based on how funny I find them. In fact, it's what I look for in pretty much everything I enjoy.

One of my favourite series of adverts are the Orange spots before films. There are several reasons for this, such as its ability to turn a formulaic 'turn your phones off' message that we all have to listen to at the start of a cinema trip and make the message into something enjoyable.

Now while I love the fact an on brand message can also become part of the experience it is supposedly interrupting, that's not why I actually look forward to them when I see a new film (I'm not THAT obsessed with advertising). I like them because generally I find them funny. I mean, who doesn't like to laugh at Macauly Culkin?

However, recently I've been going to the cinema far more often than I ever have in my life. These means, instead of a new Orange advert every time I go, I now see the same one several times.

Of course, the adverts struggle to remain entertaining in this context. The first time I laugh, the second time I may chuckle at a different line I didn't hear before, but soon I just want the film to start.

This, it strikes me, is a major problem for a lot of adverts. In the cinema, Orange adverts have always held a special place in my heart, as a one off piece of entertainment. In the real world though, of 30 second TV spots and magazine pages, would it just be another advert? Can the often throw away nature of advertising comedy really stand up to the repeated viewings we all get of them?

This reminds me of a post I read on Scamp's blog about how adverts now have to be funny all the way through. Is this important just for keeping people's attention through the ad the first time they see it, or is this simply a case of providing enough laughs for people to not get sick of it after that first viewing?

Maybe the answer is hidden within the schedules of the E4 channel. Take a gander at a TV guide and the vast majority of its day is filled with two programmes, Friends and Scrubs. Both shows have reached over 100 episodes, so they can be repeated two a day for the rest of eternity, safe in the knowledge that by the time the same joke comes around again, it's been long forgotten under about 500 others.

Of course this isn't always feasible, as most people seem to struggle to get real humour in a single advert, let alone 100. But then again, as I'm sure no one needs to hear, Innocent do manage a similar thing with their labels.

Perhaps a more realistic approach is to make sure that if you make an advert based almost solely around humour, that you provide so many levels of comedy, it can keep people amused every day it appears on their screens. I think now when we make adverts, we don't just need to test if someone laughs when they see it, we need to test if they laugh when you show them it the next day and the next day and twice the day after that.

Not an easy skill by any means. In my opinion, the best people at this have been the writers of the Simpsons and Futurama. The characters will speak and there'll be a joke, but while this is going on, someone will be pulling a ridiculous expression, while standing next to a sign with a gag written on it.

I can (and do) watch episodes of Futurama over and over again and always find something new to laugh at. I even listen to the director's commentaries on the DVDs so they can tell me about other jokes I've missed even after repeated viewings. How was I to know there were secret alien languages found on objects in the background which provide their own jokes if you can work out what they say? I didn't, but it sure made me want to watch the episodes again when I did.

Is this kind of multi-level humour really beyond us? I fear if it is then the engagement of adverts will continue to move over to mediums such as Youtube virals. In fact, maybe the reason comedy adverts have worked better in that form is not because they are more controversial or original, but because their shallow levels of humour are not put under the scrutiny of repeated viewings.
These have just been a few of my personal thoughts on humour within advertising, if anyone has any other opinions on the subject feel free to comment here.

P.S. This is officially the longest post I have ever written. If you have made it this far then I will reward you with another example of how a piece of comedy can get a whole new layer.

Thursday, 6 March 2008


I was watching the Spurs Vs PSV European game today, when I noticed a frankly baffling piece of insight used in an advert.

One of the moving ad boardings said:

"Like football?"

"You'll love the Army"

Now, I like football. But, a young John Rambo I am not.

I like a lot of the Army adverts, especially ones pushing the skills it can offer for later life. However, I'm not sure a viable angle is that it teaches you to be the next Peter Crouch.