Show Me the Funny

The more I view and listen to advertisements, the more I see and hear humor being used to peddle and promote good and services, what was once considered to be a risky or taboo practice seems to be at the forefront of marketing and advertising these days. Because humor is not preachy or pitchy, it opens people’s minds to receiving the information infused within, it acts a lubricant or delivery system for the intended message. Make a person laugh and you can open their mind, it’s a simple and powerful technique that has applications in many aspects of life, coupled properly with the use of nostalgia, it can be a very effective vehicle for advertising. This idea is something that the creative team at Ideal Positions will be exploiting regularly in our radio ads. Unsolved Mysteries, The Twilight Zone, the Liam Neeson movie “Taken”, the hit t.v. shows “24” and Forensic Files are just a few of the works we are have already or are considering parodying.

I am really looking forward to a movie trailer radio ad we will be undertaking soon, it will be a challenge keeping it under the 60 second requirement, especially considering that most movie trailers are at least twice that long but, it will help keep us from going overboard which would be easy to do with such a broad canvas. In theory, using our own employees as the stars of the fictitious film, in lieu of actual Hollywood movie actors will hopefully accomplish a few things; it will eliminate the cost of hiring a professional voice actor/impersonator, it will introduce our staff to the audience and it will spare the listener the pain of hearing bad impersonations performed by whatever colleagues of mine end up in the final cut.

Speaking of crappy acting, we are currently editing what is intended to be a “bad local commercial”, it is a tax-time ad set at the scene of the Boston Tea Party in 1773. I recently heard the first cut and it while it needs a lot of work, it has the vibe of an SNL comedy sketch, which is what I was hoping for when I wrote it. Right now it is a bad, “bad local commercial”, hopefully with some magic from our resident Foley artist, executive producer and sound editor, Josh Babbitt, some reshoots(for a lack of a better word) and some funnier content, it will become just a “bad local commercial”, emphasis on just 1 bad.

In just about six month’s time, we have grown leaps and bounds as a creative team, we have learned and continue to learn a lot about how best to go about layering, mixing, timing, writing and structuring radio ads. Personally, I send the semi-finished ads to the smartest, most critical people I know (as well as those with an underdeveloped sense of humor) and ask them for their unbiased and unfiltered opinions, I also play them for various staff members and many of the aforementioned people have said that the ads we are producing are better than 99% of the ads they hear on the radio, and I agree. I am extremely critical of any creative endeavor I am involved with so, if I think something is good, it just might be. Even after clocking out for the day, while driving and while at home, I listen carefully to our ads, over and over again, (sometimes to the point of nauseam) for any small edit we need to make. I truly believe that we could play our Unsolved Mysteries and Daylight Saving ads on a national stage and I hope someday we get the opportunity to present something we’re really proud of to a broader audience.

It becomes difficult receiving criticism and feedback from various radio reps, regardless of their experience, for a couple of reasons, the most glaring reason being that most of the ads I hear on their stations are boring, bland, poorly produced garbage that do nothing but make me want to change the station or at least turn the volume down. How does one tactfully tell someone that their opinion has no merit and carries no weight because you don’t respect their body of work? Easier said than done. The other reason I find it hard to receive their feedback is because of the perceived level of jealousy I see on their faces when they hear the ads that a couple of amateurs produced. Knowing that they are hearing our work through the filter of their own bruised egos does not lend credence to their critique but, it does let us know that we are doing something right and that we are on the right track….. and that is very gratifying.

We are so confident in our abilities to create quality radio ads that we will be offering it as a service that our company provides. I can only imagine the possibilities that creating ads for different industries will bring, it’s an exciting proposition and I am salivating at the opportunity.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog that will likely include more content about this topic, I just can’t seem to stay away from it. Below are a couple of different versions of our recently finished “Daylight Savings” ad. Enjoy.

Humor in Advertising Part 3

 

There is a traditionally held belief within our industry that the best products or services to use humor to promote are things that don’t cost a lot of money or require a lot of thought like; beer, candy bars, soft drinks or fast food but, an insurance selling duck (which looks more like Goose) and it’s witty Gecko counterpart might disagree. Airline tickets aren’t cheap but Southwest Airlines has had great success with their humor based “wanna get away?” ad campaign and, despite the cost of buying a new automobile, Isuzu says their wacky “Joe Isuzu” ad campaign from the late 1980’s was their most successful to date.

Ultimately what people consider to be funny or not funny, in good taste or bad, is simply their opinion and you will never be able to please everyone so, I say if a business owner wants to try something funny or bold, go for it. If you’re not offending marginalized people, why not go there?!?!? Curse words, sexual overtones and potty humor have their place in art, pop culture and marketing and regardless of your opinions, these things have made movie studios, record companies, t.v. stations, advertisers, and comedians rich for decades, this is an irrefutable fact.

I can say with confidence that many times in my life I have purchased goods and services from companies with less than memorable ad campaigns, I’m sure if you took the time to think about it, you could say the same. Personally, outside of the quality or value of their product or service, I am far more concerned with how companies treat their employees, their customers and how socially or environmentally conscious they are than I am with their slogans or gimmicks. There is no reward without risk, no great success without the potential for epic failure and nobody great got anywhere by trying to be like everyone else.

On that note, let’s talk about candy, diabetes, obesity, bikinis, colon scopes, pap smears, deforestation, furniture, nerds, lawyers and drinking on the job. That is a sampling of some of the content in our upcoming Daylight Savings radio ad. The commercial is a parody of overly ambitious sales promotions used by companies from different industries on obscure holidays, At the end of the ad, we will be presenting our own promotion for an obscure day of the year in glorious hypocritical fashion. We will have recorded so much material for this ad that we will be making different versions of it, to air on different stations and, may end up using some additional material in future projects.

Originally, I had only written 3 clips for the ad, then the boss asked me to write a few more, then a few more, then a few more until we ended up with 16 before Ian “Baby Girl” Davis, A.k.a M.C. Sledge Hammer, had a stroke of genius for a 17th during a recording session, easily the most risqué of the bunch. Secretly, the 13-year-old in me is crossing his fingers and biting his lip hoping the Bossman uses it but, I realize that it may be a little too explicit for general listening audiences, it might play better to “Love Line” or “Dr. Ruth” fans. I am so excited for this ad that I asked our Executive Producer, A.k.a O.M.G.(Old Man Google) if he will make me a personal copy when he’s done editing, one that contains all of the clips, without time constraints, for my own narcissistic amusement. At the risk of sounding like a sycophantic suck up,(not that anyone is reading this) I cannot understate how impressive his editing and mixing skills have become, he really brings these ads to life, his timing, use of sound effects, fade outs, layering, and musical choices are spot on and he is great at coming up with ideas for the ending of these ads(or a pretty little “bow”, as he calls them), indeed the force is strong with this one, I foresee he will become a great Jedi Master.

This concludes the “Humor in Advertising” trilogy but I will be posting updates about future ads when they conclude production. Make sure not to read next week’s blog about annoying telemarketers and the ever-changing landscape of phone sales.

http://mentalfloss.com/article/77518/many-lies-joe-isuzu

https://www.experience.com/advice/careers/professions/humor-in-advertising/

 

 

Humor in Advertising Part 2

 

Abduction, homicide, conspiracy to conceal a capital crime, fecal incontinence (involuntary defecation) and angry, overly-taxed colonials, just a few of the themes one might hear in the course of listening to an Ideal Positions radio ad. It is with caution, creativity, and courage that a company must proceed when undertaking such a risky enterprise. Humor is so subjective to begin with, in advertising it becomes a different beast altogether and when you add provocative subject matter to the mix, there is no telling what can happen, it’s like walking on the edge of a razor blade but, fortune favors the bold and I credit our company president for having the vision and the chutzpah to go there.

Most anyone who watched network television in the 1990’s remembers the unmistakable, chilling voice of Robert Stack as the host of the hit series “Unsolved Mysteries”. My family were regular viewers and as a lover of mysteries, I was mesmerized by Stack, he had me hanging on every word and he made everything he spoke about sound 10x’s more interesting than it probably was. It was from this show that we drew inspiration for one of our current projects, because “getting found” is the central theme of the service that our company provides, it made perfect sense to parody a “missing website” segment from Unsolved Mysteries. When the boss greenlit the project, my inner child did cartwheels. I couldn’t help but snicker to myself while corresponding with the voice actor we hired, asking this stranger if he could mimic Robert Stack’s cadence and inflection, it just struck me as ridiculous (and funny) in the context of my work duties.

As I stood in our makeshift studio with colleague and sound technician Ian Davis, listening to a professional voice actor, theater vet and former news anchor record material I wrote, I had to pinch myself, it was surreal, directing a paid entertainer, how lucky am I? I’m getting paid for this? Looking over at Ian (or looking UP at Ian, I should say) and seeing the wide-eyed wonder on his face at times just cemented the thought that sometimes my job is just too damn cool! Our actor has such a powerful voice and tremendous inflection, he gave us quality material to work with, the commercial is now ready for air and is attached below.

The bossman is currently editing two other ads, a tax-time ad, featuring bad British accents and angry Bostonians and, he’s got his hands full with a Daylight Savings themed ad featuring a myriad of funny, risque’ and over-the-top sales promotions from different industries. An overly caffeinated mattress salesman named Mad Marty may be my favorite so far.

I admit it was kind of daunting when the boss asked me to write an ad for such an obscure day of the year but I think it really got the creative juices flowing and inspired some of the best stuff we’ve recorded so far. It has been a blast recording bits for the ad with various co-workers and El Presidente’ has done a great job editing and mixing so far. I’m really looking forward to hearing the final cuts and I hope all of you not reading this blog enjoy them, the Unsolved Mysteries ad is attached below.

There is still so much to cover about this whole topic so, make sure not to read part 3, coming next week.

 

 

Humor in Advertising Part 1

No matter how you feel about the use of humor in advertising, I’m guessing that you can still point to at least one t.v., radio, print or digital ad over the years that tickled your funny bone. Personally, my favorite humorous ad campaign was one that Sprite ran many years ago where they made fun of advertising itself and selling you their product all the while, I thought it was brilliant. Who can forget the Pace Picante Sauce ads from the 90’s, the Budweiser wassssssup ads or their football playing horses?! Anheuser-Busch also ran a series of pretty funny “you’re not getting my Bud Light” ads and I really like the “Wanna get away” Southwest Airlines ad campaign. Geico, Snickers, Old Spice, Dollar Shave Club, Gillette, Groupon, Apple and many other companies have run successful ad campaigns using humor as well.

In October of 2017, Ideal Positions decided to jump into the fray and try our hand at “the funny”, despite a complete lack of experience in such endeavors, some time constraints, and a few minor production errors, I would like to think that we accomplished at least making our own mothers laugh.

Our first attempt was a local radio ad that played to the tongue-in-cheek idea that the best place to hide a dead body is on the 2nd page of the Google search results because nobody looks there. We liked the general idea but I particularly was unsure how to go about making a homicide themed ad potable for the general public. It was our company president Josh Babbitt who took the reigns and wrote a script that accomplished making this delicate theme palatable for mass consumption, he also produced and edited the ad in-house, it was his first attempt and he knocked it out of the park. (ad is attached below) Our timing also helped soften any potential blowback as the ad ran shortly before Halloween. The feedback we received from our radio rep, our staff and a few others was mostly positive and only encouraged both the boss and myself to take another shot at using public radio as a canvas for every smartass advertising idea we could think of, so far, soooooooooo fun!

Using a small filing room as a makeshift recording studio, we have been experimenting with different material and have involved various staff members in the process. The owner has become quite proficient with the mixing and editing programs he uses and he’s created a work environment that’s supportive of everyone’s ideas. On any given day, our staff and neighbors can hear laughter from the “studio” bellowing through the hallways here at IDP Headquarters. I absolutely love being a part of these projects and am grateful for the opportunity to have my suggestions and contributions taken under advisement by the brain trust.

We have since run Christmas and Valentine’s Day ads (V-Day ad is attached below) and have 4 more in the production and pre-production phases that include: Daylight Savings, Tax Time, Unsolved Mysteries and Missing Persons themed ads.

What are your favorite funny ads? Send your answers to joe@idealpositions.com

Check out part 2 of this blog where I will further elaborate on the current radio ads we are producing and will briefly touch on the debate within our industry about the use of humor in advertising.

 

The grandfather of modern advertising, Claude Hopkins, said:

Don’t treat your subject lightly. Don’t lessen respect for your self or your article by any attempt at frivolity. People do not patronize a clown. There are two things about which men should not joke. One is business, one is home. An eccentric picture may do you serious damage. One may gain attention by wearing a fool’s cap. But he would ruin his selling prospects.

But then check CBSnews.com and you will see this:

Ignore those snobs who say humor has no place in sales and marketing, that prospects don’t buy from clowns, or you should never poke fun at your own brand. They do not understand the likeability factor of humor.

 http://psychologyformarketers.com/does-humor-in-advertising-help-sell-more/

 https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/7-boring-big-brands-that-used-humor-to-amp-up-their-marketing