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Humor Appeals

A recent commercial was a huge hit in my household. It shows a husband and a wife looking over the paperwork to purchase a vehicle, and the salesperson tells them that they are going to love their deal. The husband responds by stating that he has a great poker face, but ends up moving his arms around in excited, hilarious movements. The wife then replies solemnly that he has terrible “poker arms.”

My family and I thought this commercial was hysterical, we watched it multiple times. But, until I looked up the commercial to write this post, I had no idea which car dealership it was advertising. I have probably watched that commercial 20 times and I still did not know what it was advertising. This lead me to thinking, how effective are humor appeals in advertisements?

According to Gass and Seiter in their 2014 book “Persuasion, Social Influence, and Compliance Gaining”, they explain that humor is one of the most used persuasive appeals in all of advertising. But, just because it is the most used, does not mean it is the most effective. Gass and Seiter go into detail about some of the advantages of humor appeals, like “capturing attention and increasing liking for the source”. However, it cannot increase the liking of a source if the viewer is only focusing on the humor, because they will not know who the advertiser is.

While humor appeals will capture the attention of the audience, it will have a higher potential of being effective if it is directly connected to the advertiser or what they are advertising. There is a fine line between humor being effective and humor overtaking the point of the advertisement. Be sure to connect the dots for your audience, or else the point will be lost.

For instance, if this commercial had made more of a point to explain what they were advertising during the commercial, rather than just at the conclusion, maybe I would have known who or what the commercial was for the first 20 times that I watched it. Make sure the humor doesn’t take away from the point of your advertisement, because the focus is too much on the humor and not on what you are advertising.

In case you’re curious, the commercial was from Toyota, advertising a sale they had going on. Link to commercial:

This post courtesy of Digital Media Intern, Taylor Lanfear

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