Some of the most memorable ads are the funniest ones, but how did the writer (and designer/videographer) get to that point? How did they take a creative brief and turn it into something that makes you smile—if not laugh out loud? Well, that’s exactly what we’re delving into today.
First, I want to make an important point. Similar to our previous post about creativity, you don’t need to be funny to be a successful copywriter. Many companies aren’t looking for humor in their copy—in fact, many more than those that are looking for humor.
Instead, companies are looking for writers who can craft benefit-driven copy that resonates with their target audiences and drives the companies’ goals ahead. If you don’t consider yourself funny but want to be a copywriter, you’re in luck: You have the potential for a lucrative career ahead of you.
Tips for Funny Copywriting
Now, on the other hand, if you do want to write funny copy, you can certainly pitch companies that have a cheeky, playful, and even humorous tone of voice. But there are a few principles to follow. And when I say “funny copy,” I mean truly funny copy. This is the kind of copy that people actually recognize as being clever and enjoyable—not the ads that are trying to be funny, but fail miserably. I also don’t mean the absurdist ad campaigns that try to be entertaining by being entirely bizarre and ridiculous. (I’m talking to you, Skittles.)
1. Get Inspiration from Real Life
The most common denominator for the most successful funny ads is actually a fairly simple concept: They point out the absurdity in real life through common, and relatable situations or perceptions. Sometimes those situations or perceptions might be turned on their ear, but the element of an absurd or relatable issue in real life remains.
Here’s a prime example in Samsung’s “Texts from Mom” commercial:
This ad takes the common idea that our Moms don’t know how to text, but they text nonetheless and make countless mistakes. What makes this so funny is that, even if you haven’t personally experienced getting a “bad” text from your mother, you can easily appreciate the situation.
Remember the Bud Light “Real Men of Genius” campaign from the early 2000s? It was all about signing power ballads about the absurd things men really do on their nights out. And they hit home so well.
2. Make an Emotional Connection
Some of the most powerful ads that use humor also make an emotional
The “Hey Mom,” campaign from Google. It starts with a child covered in mud saying, “Hey mom? What’s for lunch?” From there, there are more relatable moments of children saying, “hey mom” in various scenarios. It ends with a mom herself asking her Google Home Hub to call her mom.
It’s relatable (even non-moms can remember doing this—and maybe continuing to do this—to their moms). But it’s also hitting on the power of what moms do, creating a small tug at the heartstrings amid the humor.
3. Zoom in on the Specificity
With copywriting in general, it’s all too easy to pack in too much. When we pare back, that’s when we get to the strongest writing because it’s more memorable. It’s not asking your audience to think too hard or understand too much.
That’s even more important with humor. If it takes too long to get to a punch line, you may have lost your audience. Or, if it’s too confusing, it may fall flat.
One way around this is to really zoom in on the specificity. Take the “Hey Mom” campaign above as an example. They could have simply started the concept with children screaming “hey mom.” Or, worse, they could have had kids saying “hey mom” and “Moooooom!” or “Can you come here, mom?”
Instead, the concept sticks to that single line. And it includes very detailed scenarios. Muddy child asking what’s for lunch. Child at kitchen table doing homework and asking “where did dirt come from?” Child coming home with giant bags of laundry. These are all specific moments that really make you go, “Oh yeah, that happens all the time.” People see themselves
Now, do these rules hold for every funny ad? Of course not—but they sure hold for the majority of them. When you’re tasked with writing a funny ad, the first thing to do is to identify what actually happens in real life that relates to the product or service you’re trying to sell. Explore everything that happens with, without, and around your product/service and industry. Chances are there are treasure troves of humor just waiting to be discovered.
Your turn! What are your favorite funny ads? Do they hold to the making fun of real life/making fun of perceptions rule? Let us know in the comments below!
Ace Your Next Copywriting Project
- How to Write a Great “About Us” Page
- How to Write Effectively for Non-Profits
- Writing Must-Open Subject Lines for Solopreneurs
- The Most Important Piece of Email Copy
- How Do You Write an Email Funnel?
Last Updated on June 30, 2023