Ha, ha! There’s a slow but steady return to humour in advertising

By our News Team | 2023

There are absolutely no barriers to the use of humour in ads – regardless of media channel, region or category – says industry expert.

Just over a year ago, advertising creatives and strategists were talking about the steady overall decline of humour in advertising over the last two decades. 


The good news, says insights consultancy Kantar, is that its data from 2022 saw a slight return in the use of humour, which remains steady so far in 2023.


Photo by Nappy from Pexels

“We also note that humour has been a consistent theme of our Creative Effectiveness Awards winners, which are judged by consumers,” notes Polly Wyn Jones, Global Knowledge Manager, Creative & Media, at Kantar.


“But it was also a big topic this year at Cannes Lions, where experts are the judges. In previous years Lions were more often awarded to serious heart-felt advertising than funny ads.”


According to Wyn Jones, the case for humour was further backed up at Cannes by Andrew Robertson, CEO of ad agency BBDO, who gave a powerful presentation to demonstrate that humour can deliver impact for brands if it’s done well. 


Robertson called on the industry to use more humour, and challenged Cannes Lions to open a whole new category of awards focusing solely on the use of humour in advertising.


“With the slight increase in humour remaining steady across TV and print/outdoor advertising, we also looked at the use of humour across digital ads,” Wyn Jones says in an article published on the Kantar website.


Why there has been a decline in ad humour


“The last five years of digital data shows a steady decline in the use of humour. Why is this? Firstly, digital ads are still unfortunately under-researched. Secondly, digital also still tends to be used for activation, where short-term sales increases are commonly the objective. 


“We contend that the powerful brand-building tool of humour has slowly been getting overlooked by digital advertisers. This is a real shame, because ads that the brand intended to be funny show similar increases in engagement and distinctiveness across all media channels.”


Where, and how much, is humour used? The consultancy’s data found that 32% of all ads surveyed in various countries contain some form of humour. 


Splitting this by media channel, over half of radio ads are humorous and there is above average use in TV ads. 


Print and outdoor ads make much less use of this tool. Digital ads use humour slightly less than average, with variance seen across the different digital platforms. X (previously known as Twitter) and YouTube ads are more likely to make you smile than those seen on websites.


“There are absolutely no barriers to the use of humour in ads, regardless of media channel, region or category,” states Wyn Jones.


“Done well, and appropriately, humour is fair game in advertising regardless of who is watching. In fact, it can be a very useful tool in broaching the most sensitive of subjects and can help to convey a message that might otherwise be difficult.”


You can read the full article here.

Dr Kin Kariisa

Group CEO - Next Media

Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

  • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
  • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
  • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
  • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.