| |

Why comedy audio is commercial gold

Why comedy audio is commercial gold

There is an art to using sound to create engaging commercials. When done well, the impact is incredible, argues Radioville’s managing partner.

After so much serious, purpose-driven advertising scooping the awards at Cannes Lions in recent years, it’s nice to see the festival celebrating advertising’s lighter side with the new humour sub-category which will feature across many of the main categories.

Look back through the history of advertising and you’ll find a cornucopia of funny commercials.  The most memorable tend to be the ones that make us laugh.

And memorability is what sells.

Radio is particularly effective at comedy

As GK Chesterton said, “humour can get in under the door while seriousness is still fumbling at the handle”. Humour offers brands a short cut to approachability, forging a bypass to brand connection as people are receptive to humorous messages.

Or, to put it another way, audio ads that make people feel positive drive consumer behaviour change anddeliver long-lasting brand effects, as shown by groundbreaking research on audio advertising effectiveness published last autumn by Radiocentre and System 1.

With amusing ads such as those from Diet Tango, Toyota Avensis and Compare the Market’s Meerkats, radio gives us plenty to laugh about.

So, I’m especially excited to hear about the humour entries in the ‘audio & radio’ category — as you would expect from someone who works in radio advertising. We should own it.

From good old-fashioned jokes to double-entendres, from witty word play to situational comedy sketches, radio delivers humour in a variety of ways — all of which can help people warm towards a brand.

Lots of skill trumps lots of money

The first comedy shows that were broadcast came via radio. Many classic BBC comedies have successfully transferred from radio to TV. Today, comedy dominates among the most successful podcasts. So, audio content and humour have long been happy bedfellows.

There is a wonderful purity to audio commercials. Unlike TV and cinema, the power of the commercials lives and dies by the strength of the idea and the craft in the writing. With a radio commercial, you can’t mask a poor idea with expensive visuals and post-production.

Radio ads need skill rather than lavish expenditure. The lines must be delivered with aplomb, the scripts polished and crisp, the casting must be right and the sound effects well-considered. With these in place, the possibilities for humour via a radio is endless. It’s often said by many clients that radio is refreshing because you have a lot of freedom to experiment once you are in the studio.

There is an art to using sound — and sound alone — to create engaging commercials that get people giggling. And when done well the impact is incredible.

Marmite’s amusing mind control spot from 2020 — a collaboration with Seat — was a great example of the form. Linked to Marmite’s mind control TV campaign, the radio ad ran as a standard commercial for Seat but with the Marmite message weirdly overdubbed on top as an unsubtle form of brain washing.

The act of listening is a creative activity

If you want a chuckle then I recommend listening to Specsaver’s commercial for hearing aids using misheard lyrics from Rick Astley’s hit Never Gonna Give You Up, with alternative lyrics such as “Never gonna run around with dessert spoons” and “You wouldn’t catch nits from any other guy”.

What people find funny is subjective, of course. But it’s this subjectivity that makes radio the perfect medium for brands to deploy humour.

When a listener connects with an amusing radio commercial, they visualise a bespoke scenario that’s tailor-made for them. They create the characters, scenes, and situations in their imagination unsullied by imagery that jars with them and diminishes the impact.

The humour sub-categories across the Lions present us with an opportunity to remind ourselves, and above all our clients, that a little laughter goes a long way.  Humour isn’t just good for the soul, it’s good at shifting products too. And with radio ads, this is especially true.

Maybe next year, Cannes will have a stand-alone humour category where the executions from the different media channels face off against each other. And if they do, I know who my money would be on.

One last thing…

A bit of advice to any winner of the humour category for when you collect the award. Simply thank your mum and commend your client for their bravery, then return to your seat.

Avoid the temptation to use your win to launch your stand-up career. No one is as funny as they think they are after 14 hours of necking Whispering Angel.

Sean Carnegie is managing partner at creative agency Radioville

Adwanted UK are the audio experts operating at the centre of audio trading, distribution and analytic processing. Contact us for more information on J-ET, Audiotrack or our RAJAR data engine. To access our audio industry directory, visit audioscape.info and to find your new job in audio visit The Media Leader Jobs, a dedicated marketplace for media, advertising and adtech roles.
Rich Smith, Group Strategist, Global, on 11 Apr 2024
“Thank you for this article Sean, it's all so true. One of our clients said to us recently that when it comes to creative ads "funny is money", and we've seen it too, when testing radio ads - the ad that made us all laugh would get the higher ROI.”

Media Jobs