Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Comedy & Advertising

Adverts are funny aren't they. LOL, ROFLOL, mummy-my-legs-are-wet funny. Take a look. This one's nearly as funny as Del Boy falling through the bar every Xmas for last 30 years.

This year, Herr Dave Trott said that we all need more comedy in advertising, especially "at the moment" ie. skint and fucking miserable and at war (although he was about to judge the Chip Shop Awards at the time so perhaps he wasn't being quite as sincere as he could've been. Or maybe it was a joke in itself? Ha!) Anyway, his main point was that we all need to bloody well lighten up a bit. After all, the business of advertising, which is - let's face it - the business of finding interesting metaphors for products, isn't exactly life and death. And yet, walk into some agencies and you can almost hear Doom turning over in his bed... Shhh! People tapping away nervously in corners, piles of papers being marched over to desks to be whispered about. (If it's a small agency it tends to feel a little bit like Das Boot). Sure, we all have our Star Wars toys and posters up around the studio, but they're nothing more than sentimental reminders; like teddy bears on a child's grave...

No. The atmosphere in many agencies is barely conducive to creativity let alone a laugh and a joke. But humour remains one of the most powerful weapons in the ad man's (brass and mahogany) gun cabinet - a weapon that remains firmly under lock and key because humour might be a bit "inappropriate" or send "the wrong message" at the minute, because we all love being fucking miserable and uptight, right? Wrong! People like being happy, and like feeling they've gained something. Which is what humour does so much more effectively than (for example) an assurace of the quality and history of Kelloggs corn flakes, or any other stolid and pretentious recession-proof campaign.

Eric Idle once said that comedy is just "telling the truth", which is correct (if a little reductionist). To put it another way, humour and comedy are based entirely on honesty, and it's this that audiences respond to, whether it's the sarcasm of Blackadder, or the absurd pathos of Cadbury Gorilla (arguably the greatest ad of the last 10 years). In fact, if I wanted to be a total wanker about it, I could go so far as to say there's something Charlie Chaplin-esque about Cadbury Gorilla... but then I'd have to suck Kirsty Wark's lady-cock to get on Late Review and talk that sort of bollocks.

We're constantly told that humour is a difficult thing to get right in advertising, SO difficult in fact, as to not even be worth attempting. Ironically though, the process of writing an ad isn't that far removed from writing comedy. Headlines, tag-lines, holding lines, punchlines: all obey the same principles, structures and mechanics. But the lack of humour in advertising isn't due to the lack of talent. It's due to a lack of material - the increasingly shit, weird, cynical or pointless things clients want us to sell...

Oh, look. Another DFS Xmas ad with All I Want For Xmas on it... Must be time for Del Boy to drop through the bar again.

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