Quoting Claude Hopkins, David Ogilvy famously said, “People don’t buy from clowns.” Things may have moved on a little since then, we know humour can sell. But Ogilvy’s words still ring true to me in one important way. Humour only works when it’s right for the brand and woven effortlessly into a USP. It’s notoriously difficult to get it right too: it relies on a great script, perfect comic timing and great acting skills. Get it wrong, and your brand can really suffer (remember the Groupon / Superbowl / Chicago Himalayan restaurant debacle?) Anyway, without further ado, I present to you my entirely personal top 5 ads that got it right and genuinely make me chuckle even after repeated viewings.
Old Spice – The man your man could smell like
This brilliantly funny ad was born out of a desire to out-do the Dove Men+Care Superbowl ad. It started a conversation between men and women about the virtues of manly smelling body wash over “lady-scented” brands. Its surreal, ironic approach cleverly rejuvenates an old brand. The bizarre catch phrase ‘I’m on a horse!’ sums it all up perfectly. The campaign set youtube alight has now scooped over 100 awards globally.
Reebok – Terry Tate Office Linebacker
In this advert, a retired NFL linebacker is recruited by a corporate firm to maintain order in the office. The result is a hilarious short ‘mockumentary’ adapted from a film pilot by the writer of dodgeball. The quality really shines through here with great humour and characters. It’s more of a sponsored ad than a brief set for an agency, and it’s all the better for it.
Tango – Waterbed
There are so many great Tango ads to choose from but the spoof hushed tones of the sports commentator and the purposeful porcupine take the top medal for me. Take a look and you’ll see why this ad won a Cannes Lions Gold award in 2003.
Irn Bru – New Fella
My favourite pick of the Irn Bru ads is a cheeky take on the English Scottish divide that drew numerous complaints when it was launched. Irn Bru’s brand is now instrinsically linked with ‘Scottishness’. I can’t imagine an Irn Bru ad without humour.
John West – Bear Fight
Perhaps the ad Ogilvy would most approve of. Brilliantly done, very funny and ‘old school’ in the way it weaves humour into the John West’s USP. A 14 year old ad that was voted the funniest ad by a panel of Campaign Live luminaries. Leo Burnett came up with a masterpiece here.