What Consumer Nerve Do You Really Want To Hit?

What’s the most important quality of an advertisement? That it’s informative? Touching? Humorous? Inspiring? Relevant? Entertaining? Something else?

We could just tell you what more than 100 brand marketers and ad agency people said when we asked them directly and leave it at that: informative, 66 percent; touching, 15 percent; humorous, 10 percent; and other, 9 percent. For those who want to stop here, have a great day.

Those statistics come from a soon-to-be-released CRN study on The State of Creativity in Today’s Advertising Industry. The numbers shift a bit when you break down by respondent type:

·       Brand managers: informative, 75 percent; touching, 15 percent; humorous, 5 percent; and other, 5 percent.

·       Ad agencies: informative, 54 percent; touching, 16 percent; humorous, 16 percent; and other, 14 percent.

On the surface, you could reason that brands are concerned primarily about being informative and getting their message out. Agencies are appealing to the personal side in putting more stock in emotion and laughter. The latter, creatives at heart by definition, certainly know the need to be entertaining to resonate with today’s discerning audiences before you start throwing information their way. They also know that they better accomplish what the brands want them to do.

Let’s add another twist: Are the brands saying they want to be informative in terms of communicating facts about their product, or informative in the content marketing sense of providing consumers with useful information of value that may or may not be specific (although somewhat connected, no doubt) to the brand?

Humor is a funny thing (did I really say that?). In my short-lived and now-defunct public speaking days, someone once gave me advice I will always remember: “Never begin with a joke unless you are absolutely certain it will get a laugh.” Oh, the many times I fatally ignored that wisdom! Problem was I didn’t have time in advance to survey the audience to truly understand what they found funny.

It’s the same with advertising. You can take your best shot, but one person’s Chris Rock is another person’s Moe Howard. Just because you think something is funny doesn’t mean your audience will. Even so, about half of all commercials are said to use some form of humor.

We tend to remember humor, but it’s harder to remember the brand. We’re trained that way: humor – good; sell me something – not good. That’s the challenge for today’s marketer: use humor in a manner that makes the consumer feel good about the product, not only the joke. 


Jim Alkon 
Marketing Director