Funny Ads: Effective, or Just Good for a Laugh?

If you’re going to sit through commercials while watching TV, ads that make you laugh – or at least smile – help to lessen the annoyance, and may even keep you from changing the channel or fast-forwarding. I mean, who hasn’t cracked a smile at the dancing M&M or Allstate’s personification of “Mayhem”?

But does getting an audience to laugh necessarily get them interested in a product or service?

According to Advertising Age, a study done by Ace Metrix, which used a scoring system based on factors such as watchability, likability, and persuasion, found that while funny ads often get more attention and are better liked by the viewing audience, humor alone does not make an ad effective. In fact, ads that were simply funny were found to be slightly less likely to increase desire or purchase intent than informative, unfunny ones.

But that doesn’t mean humor doesn’t count. Peter Daboll, CEO of Ace Metrix, tells Advertising Age that to really work, an ad should be funny, relevant, and informative. “If you’re equal on relevance and information, almost always funny will win…because it drives the other scores like likability and attention,” Mr. Daboll said.

An example he gives of an ad campaign that successfully encompasses all of these factors is Procter & Gamble Co.’s ads from Grey Global Group that show blindfolded people smiling as they sniff the dirty, Febreze-treated workout gear of Azerbaijani wrestlers. This group of ads scores high for both humor and effectiveness. They work “because you’re not just going for a laugh but trying to get some of these other attributes in there,” said Mr. Daboll.

Fair enough. But effectiveness aside, I’d still rather watch Dean Winters as a lovesick teenage girl than ponder whether or not I’m “in good hands.”