Increasingly, brands and nonprofits are breaking through the tried-and-true fray to deliver serious messages, even matters of life and death, with humor. What are some key strategies to convert a laugh to action? And is anything is off limits?
That’s exactly what we’ll explore at tomorrow’s event for Advertising Week in New York. On Tuesday at 4 pm at the TimesCenter, we’re hosting an event with Google where humorist and CBS Correspondent Mo Rocca will moderate a panel with senior executives from The Barbarian Group, YouTube and Funny or Die.
So how do you make funny content that actually works? Some comedians might cringe when asked the question. For them, nothing is off limits.
So, instead of asking “Can it be funny?” perhaps a nonprofit or brand should ask instead “What’s the best way to use humor to address serious subjects?”
One truism to keep in mind—as with any joke, most comedy has a core truth to it. If you can tap into a genuine truth behind the joke then you are more likely to tap the funny bone. This gun control spot is funny because kids always find stuff around the house and play with it—ask any parent.
You also need to keep your audience in mind—obviously, you can push the envelope with some more than others. I bet this spot would appeal better to 20 year-olds than say, my Mom—yikes!
Can you just wing it and be funny? Let’s say you’re designing a campaign or social marketing effort, how much planning needs to go into being funny? Can’t you just trust your creative instincts?
Not surprisingly, most “funny experts” we’ve been talking to recommend starting with a strong creative brief so you decide upfront on the tone, message, and how the audience thinks. That will give your team a much more focused and strategic way to create your content.
And one more tidbit–the reason comedy works is that sometimes people aren’t looking to have something stuffed down their throat. You need to find an angle or approach that’s not preachy, boring or a classic talking head video. If you’re engaging a celebrity, for example, let them create something that’s in his or her own voice and will resonate with your target.
And finally, how to know if your funny content is working? You can look at a combination of things–views, awareness and donations. And it’s best to have a clear call-to-action (“take a pledge,” etc) so you have a metric to track. And don’t always track total views–it’s the views of folks you want to engage, which might be a much smaller number.