Super Bowl Commercials and Humor

The big game is over.  Congratulations to the Colts fans.  And congratulations to Budweiser and Bud Light, The King of Super Bowl Commercials.

The big winner of the ad-fest was HUMOR.  Seventy-three percent of the commercials were driven by humor.  Seventeen percent counted on high-tech special effects.  Ten percent were designed with traditional ad structure or heart-strings emotional appeal.  See previous post on Why Advertisers Use Humor in their Super Bowl Commercials.

It was interesting to note that near the top of the popularity list were the three ads with talking animals:  Gorillas, Lions and Rodents.  There’s a saying in show business:  Never follow an animal act or children.  I would assume that an ad with talking babies would have also been a hit.  Like animals, they also have universal appeal.

Budweiser/Bud Light had the most ads during the Super Bowl.  You’d figure they know something about advertising.  And they do.  All of their ads were winners.  Seven of them humor driven and one ad pulling on your heart-strings.  About the same ratio as the entire field of ads overall.

All of the Super Bowl Ads are available for viewing online.

Here are some things we can learn from the commercials:

1.  In reviewing the ads, we find that many humor tools, triggers and principles are demonstrated by the writers. 

2.  For example, the tool of the topper.  This is normally used by a comic where one joke line rides on the tails of another.  A joke followed by another one on the same theme.  In advertising, time is precious.  A topper is sometimes added at the end of the commercial, after the ad content and main humor is completed.  It’s like a cherry on top of a sundae.  Sometimes the toppers are so subtle and unexpected that you can miss them if you aren’t looking for them.  The great value of the topper, whether in an ad or in a speech, is that it encourages people to keep listening and watching, because they never know what great thing is just around the corner.  Examples are:

   — First Quarter, Bud Light, Rock Paper Scissors, “Low Five!” 
   — First Quarter, Bud Light, Wedding, “So what do I owe you?”
   — Fourth Quarter, Bud Light, Hitchhiker, “and a chainsaw!” (Note the choice of WHO delivers the line.  Also you hear the chainsaw in the background.  Nice touch.)

3.  Self Deprecation is a good tool.  People are endeared to those who can poke fun at themselves.
   — Fourth Quarter, T-Mobile, My Favs, “Is this your dad?”

4.  Use of a strong character.  This is a common tool in comedy.  Remember to develop strong characters in your telling of stories when delivering a speech.

  — Second Quarter, Doritos, Cashier (And they slip in the topper at the end, “Clean up, register six!”

5.  Running a theme with changing styles or genres, or as the case in this commercial, dialects.  This is similar to a repeating scene game played in improv comedy.

    — Second Quarter, Bud Light, Classroom (Plays with dialects in a likeable, friendly way.  Also notice the number of times the product name is mentioned.  This is a key to advertising, driving home the product.  You don’t want to run a cute ad and have them forget who sponsored the commercial!”)

6.  The principle of absurdity allows you to do something silly and not be offensive because it’s too far from the truth to offend anyone.  This commercial uses a what-if technique. (What if the slap replaced the high-five or the handshake?).
   — Second Quarter, Bud Light, Slap

7.  Being careful when using borderline subject material.  One area where this applies is when attempting humor on sex and bodily functions.  In this commercial they draw a parallel to erectile dysfunction.

   — Third Quarter, Sprint, Broadband (I would normally not attempt this in an ad, but what does work for me in this commercial is that although they’re suggesting a comparison with ED by innuendo, I felt they were largely poking fun at commonly seen ED commercials with the downtrodden-to-smiling transition.  This makes it a parody, which I think works OK.)

8.  Different strokes.  I’ve made no attempt to rank order the ads.  What is one person’s funniest ad is another person’s dud.  I know that some of the ones that I liked best were not ranked high in the voting.  And some of the highest ranked ads were ones I didn’t think were the best.  Visit the ad site and you’ll find some commercials that you’ll love that weren’t included in this article.

9.  Remember…always be a student of life!