How Humor Can Break Through The Media Clutter

By: Adam Liszewski / Group Account Director

How do you reach consumers when their attention span is shorter than a goldfish and their time spent with media is so fragmented?

That is the question I ask myself every day as a marketer and that’s why I love my job – every day brings a new challenge. According to a study from Microsoft, the average consumer’s attention span has dropped to eight seconds, which is one second less than a goldfish. The comparison is quite alarming, but it makes sense given that we are constantly being bombarded with texts, tweets, push notifications, ads, Facebook posts, emails and more.

eMarketer recently released a report that illustrates how consumers use media on a daily basis. On average US adults spend approximately 12 hours daily with media, and digital accounts for over half of the time spent. While digital is on the rise, TV still gets a big share of the total. On average consumers spend 3 hours, 35 minutes a day watching TV which puts the myth to rest that TV is dead.

So how do you break through the fragmented media space? I believe humor is one strategic approach that can help. I must admit I am a sucker for a good unexpected laugh. I think it breaks through the clutter and is memorable. Here are a few campaign examples that have made an impact on me using this approach.

GEICO’s pre-roll videos created in 2017 were some of the best creative I’ve seen in this space. GEICO understands that consumers want to be entertained, not brainwashed. So, they condensed their ads down to nothing, literally, by crushing them. All while still building brand recognition and communicating their value proposition to save money on insurance through GEICO.  

Bud Light’s “Dilly! Dilly” campaign is another example of a brand willing to take risks. Did you know the campaign nearly didn’t happen? It didn’t test well in focus groups, but Anheuser-Busch InBev Chief Marketing Officer Miguel Patricio and his team decided to move forward anyway. Research should guide us, but sometimes you just need to go with your gut. And I think it paid off. Well played InBev.

Another subject I am passionate about is Philadelphia sports. If you watched the NBA playoffs, you are no stranger to HULU’s new campaign. Checkout this :30 TV spot. Personally, I think it’s absolutely hilarious. I may be biased and more receptive to the ad since it features 76ers center Joel Embiid; however, I do believe HULU was able to successfully raise awareness that you can watch live sports with their platform in a humorous way. Even my seven-year-old son was repeating “HULU has live sports. HULU has live sports.” before the NBA Finals. Mission accomplished.

AT&T’s “Just okay is not okay” campaign is another that stands out to me. You may have seen their “Tattoo,” “Surgeon,” or “Sushi” spot that demonstrates the importance of not settling for just okay. I laugh every time the spot comes on air knowing how the ad plays out. Humorous? Yes. Memorable? Yes. A strong message that resonates with consumers? Absolutely.

Budweiser ran an incredibly touching campaign this past Mother’s Day. While the approach wasn’t humorous, it was timely. There were multiple thirty second spots that featured a baseball player celebrating their accomplishments with their first call to their mom. A sixty second spot followed with a single image frame and a countdown clock – “60 seconds until the game is back. Use this time to #CALLYOURMOM.” Simple, effective, and brilliant.

Finally, consider Blendtec’s “Will it Blend” YouTube campaign, with nearly 19 million views on YouTube. The online video series features Tom Dickson, owner of Blendtec, shredding all kinds of products to illustrate the strength of the blender. This one minute, thirty second video shows Tom shredding an iPad to dust. Its game style approach is a bit silly, but it shows you don’t need six-figure budgets to create memorable content. Does it does make you think twice when buying your next blender?

Humor is just one strategic approach I believe can quickly capture consumers attention and break through the fragmented media space. I think a brand is doing something right if consumers are making t-shirts of your advertising campaign like with Bud Light’s Dilly! Dilly! or you are able to make an everlasting impression with your audience. Of course, it needs to be appropriate for your brand, align with the overall tone/voice, and deliver against your overall strategy – but that can take many shapes and sizes. Personally, I do find it reassuring if a brand is able to let loose and bring a smile to consumers. Keep laughing America.