Does humor still sell in TV commercials?
Yes. And no.
Mass media advertising continues to shrink as more and more advertisers find that they can better reach their audience via the internet. Last Thursday, Tru TV had a special on the funniest TV commercials of 2012. I was going to watch it but had something else going on so instead I recorded it. Once the NFL wrapped up its wild card games on Sunday, I decided to watch, knowing that I could skip all the commercials during the break so that I could watch the commercials on the show. Ironic isn’t it? Overall, either I’m becoming harder to entertain or these commercials simply weren’t that funny.
Maybe it was just me.
I’ll let you judge for yourself. Here’s their list along with links and my droll comments that have very little humor built into them as well.
1. Fallsview Casino Resort – “Coconut” (Canada) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FB0HfrdCZYc A quick case of amnesia caused by a coconut. Easily forgettable. Hardly laughable. I could think of many spots right off the top of my head that are funnier than this one.
2. Fed Ex – “Band” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmguXOPc9VI BBDO out of New York has been making great FedEx commercials for a while. This one didn’t make me laugh but it is funny. And I enjoy watching it numerous times which makes it a great commercial in my book. Plus, I love golf and it deals with the subject matter of shipping golf clubs in a completely unexpected way. I like it better than the one with the guy with the shrinking machine.
3. Canal Digital – “The Man Who Lived in a Film” (Norway) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqT_I4vS6OQ This commercial is growing on me – now that I’ve seen it a few times. It’s very well done and has a little bit of everything in it. I’m not sure that it’s funny but it’s definitely good and a great positioning. If you have the time and you’re in that YouTube mode, Canal Digital has all kinds of great commercials. It’s kind of like reviewing all the Skittles commercials that have been done through the years. The bar is set high and they need to keep topping it. Speaking of Skittles – they’re not on this year’s list. Their ongoing ‘Taste the Rainbow’ campaign goes in my TV commercial Hall of Fame.
4. Doritos – “Sling Baby” (United States) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2kQFEjkhBQ A grandma and a baby in a sling. The casting in this commercial of the brat kid and the grandma both seemed off. But I like the baby. I didn’t really find this to be very funny and this is one where if you see it once, you really don’t need to see it again.
5. BGH – “Dads in Briefs” (Argentina) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwrZzk-45Jk This one is well-produced – the black & white aspect makes it seem classic and the little girl who thinks twice about the channel changer is a great shot. Good pay-off at the end. I guess this is funny. I know it’s memorable but in reality, it’s a pretty generic selling message and I bet did very little for the brand.
6. Old Spice – “Bounce” (United States) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvYP_d2S1Pg Wieden & Kennedy – everything you do is good. Everything. You make me jealous. You make me want to do great things. The first time I saw this commercial on TV, I laughed – because of its crazy, unexpected, wildness. And now, I believe in my smelf (even though that’s a different tag line from the commercial shown).
7. The Trainline – “Be Sensible” (United Kingdom) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6hRfpN6mZg I watched this spot and I felt like I was watching Airplane. Same basic concept. Funny but so over-the-top that it felt more like a rip-off than something truly original. There are some fun scenes that make it worth watching a few times.
8. Zona Jobs – “Grandma” (Argentina) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ig7b0l6zm0M This one ran in Argentina. No way it could ever run in the U.S. I know it’s tongue-in-cheek but I just don’t like seeing poor Grandma getting gunned down by bank robbers. Unexpected – but not in a good way.
9. Bloeman – “Screwed” (The Netherlands) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMOGBIewd4M I guess you have to be totally over-the-top to be funny. Not really. Again, I think this commercial goes a bit too far, particularly with the opening scene.
10. DB Export Dry – “Wine Is Over” (New Zealand) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whxGbHbY2bY Here’s another one that just didn’t strike me as funny. Maybe it’s a New Zealand thing.
So that was the show that I watched. Were these the funniest commercials made on the planet in the year 2012? Probably not. Of these, my two favorites would have been The Man Who Lived In A Film and the Heavy Metal Golfers for FedEx.
Of course a commercial doesn’t have to be funny, to be good. In fact, humor is one of the hardest things to pull off in 30 or 60 seconds and still have it be relevant to your key selling proposition. Congrats to all who try it. Let’s hope that 2013 brings us some great commercial moments – many of which will be featured in less than a month on this year’s Super Bowl.
Happy viewing and feel free to add in your own favorites.