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Cannes Lions Content Feature

#Cannes2024: Creative Circle at Cannes - Roanna Williams on bringing back the funny

Humour has long been heralded as a potent tool in advertising, capable of forging deep connections with audiences and embedding brands in the collective consciousness. Yet, in recent years, the landscape of funny ads seems to have dwindled. What happened to the era of laughs and memorable taglines?
Roanna Williams attended Kantar's talk on whether the industry has lost its funny bone. Source: Roanna Williams.
Roanna Williams attended Kantar's talk on whether the industry has lost its funny bone. Source: Roanna Williams.

Advertising that’s funny: making people connect

Effective humour in advertising is not just about generating laughs, but about creating a memorable and emotional connection with consumers. When done right, humour can disarm scepticism, enhance brand recall, and foster positive associations. Its importance lies not only in entertaining but also in humanising brands and making them relatable.

Industry lost its funny bone: preoccupied with other stuff

However, the industry appears to have lost touch with its funny bone. Advertising agencies, once strongholds of creativity and irreverence, now find themselves preoccupied with metrics, analytics, and a cautious approach to content. This shift has resulted in fewer ad campaigns that deliver the feel-good factor consumers crave.

Fewer ad campaigns with the feel-good factor: comedy crisis

There are several reasons behind this "comedy crisis." Firstly, the hyper-focus on purpose-driven advertising and serious topics has overshadowed light-hearted approaches. Secondly, the globalisation of markets has made it challenging to create universally funny content that resonates across cultures. Lastly, the rise of cancel culture has made advertisers increasingly wary of crossing lines or offending audiences.

Can AI do funny?

In the age of AI and data-driven marketing, the question of whether artificial intelligence can replicate human humour arises. While AI can parse data and mimic patterns, true humour often requires spontaneity, cultural nuance, and an understanding of human emotions—elements that are not easily replicated by algorithms, yet.

Where did humour go and why?

The decline of humour in advertising reflects broader societal changes. Brands, eager to be taken seriously and avoid controversy, have shifted their focus inward, crafting messages that prioritise corporate responsibility over entertainment value. This shift has stifled creativity and sidelined the once-vibrant tradition of humorous advertising.

Crafting effective funny ads requires a delicate balance of insight, creativity, and risk-taking. It involves understanding the audience deeply, exploring unconventional ideas, and allowing room for experimentation. Successful campaigns often stem from a collaborative effort between creative minds willing to push boundaries and challenge conventions.

In conclusion, while the humour in advertising may have waned, its power to captivate and connect remains potent. As brands navigate the complexities of a changing cultural landscape and embrace new platforms like TikTok for storytelling, there's hope for a resurgence of wit and charm in advertising. By honouring the craft of comedy and embracing creativity, brands can reclaim their funny edge and leave a lasting impression in the hearts—and funny bones—of consumers worldwide.

Over the next few days we as the Creative Circle will profile our experiences, hopefully sharing insights into the work, the philosophy, and what’s driving it.

For more:

As media partner to the Creative Circle SA, we’re proud to publish exclusive daily snapshot updates from Cannes. Don’t miss the first Diary of Creative Circle at Cannes from the SA cohort on the ground in Cannes, every day from 19-24 June! Also Book Now for The Full Circle event, brought to you by the Creative Circle - an inspiring showcase of the top trends, insights and award winning work from the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

About Roanna Williams

Roanna Williams is the first woman to head up the Creative Circle. She was elected as the chairperson from 2022 to March 2024. Williams is the CCO of Boundless.

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