Ad Creative

Balancing Humor and Branding: The Art of Funny Audio Ads

Ryan Wardell – Creative Director, Head of Copy, Studio ResonateOct 24, 2023

Welcome to Studio Resonate Showcase. Humor can be tricky for brands—but it’s a real treat for audiences when it’s done well. Learn how to leverage the long-standing relationship between comedy and audio to make an impression on consumers.

Great audio ads—the kind that are memorable and motivational—they take great copywriting. It’s the key to communicating brand messages effectively in 15 or 30 seconds. But what if you want to use humor to draw the listener in and inspire action?

Humor is a powerful storytelling tool in advertising, getting attention and driving desirable outcomes. However, some brands are afraid to embrace humor. (Hint: Our hot take is that they shouldn’t be.)

Why so Serious?

According to a Kantar study, intentional humor in advertising has been on the decline for nearly two decades (thanks to things like global recessions and pandemics). Though it appears in only 33% of ads, over half of the Kantar Creative Effectiveness Award winners use comedy. This gap can likely be chalked up to the intricacies of humor, the state of the world, and the potential brand risk if the joke doesn't land.

But what if it does? A recent research report showed that 91% of people prefer brands to be funny; and 72% of people would choose a brand that uses humor over the competition. The indication is clear. Despite brand hesitance, the art form is effective for telling brand stories. Our talented copywriters at Studio Resonate can ensure your funny ads land with the right audiences at the right time.

People Like to Laugh

It’s universal. That’s not a hot take. But what is a hot take is that more brands can and should be trying to make audiences laugh. Think about your favorite ad. Chances are, your mind goes to one that makes you laugh. Tapping into comedy’s influence on both memory and emotion is powerful, and it can be the difference between an ad audiences forget and one they tell their friends and family about.

Comedy and Audio Go Way Back

Comedy albums have been popular for over a century. And more recently, comedy has seen tremendous success with podcasts, with fans making it the number one genre. Thanks to the long history of comedy in audio, audiences are attuned to the sounds of humor: the changes in tone and tempo, the differences in the delivery and style, the small shifts in pitch that tell us the punchline is near.

With humor’s enduring popularity, listeners invite those sounds, the anticipation, and the payoffs that make them laugh and smile. Whether an advertiser wants to make a first impression or reinforce existing consumer relationships, adding an entertaining element to audio ads can make listeners feel good about taking action (e.g., researching a product or making a purchase). 

Brand-Friendly Funny for Audio Ads

When going for humor in advertising, it’s important to make your brand the hero, not the punchline. Here are a few of the ways copywriters at Studio Resonate bring humor to life in their scripts to make listeners laugh (while delivering a positive impact for brands).

Subvert Expectations 

Lead the listener in one direction, and then take an unexpected but relevant turn. Humor lives in those gaps and disconnects between expectation and reality. Creating that playful tension gets attention. This Uber Eats ad does just that. 

Uber Eats
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We made the most of Uber’s “Tonight, I’ll be eating” campaign on our sponsored Hipster Halloween Radio station on Pandora. The writing leans into the comedy rule of three by leading into the twist with two perfectly normal (and delicious) orders before delivering “Dracula’s” comedically unsettling order. Then, the audio scene pulls out quickly to ground us once more, promoting the ease and convenience of ordering food using Uber Eats. 

As the copywriter for this one, I gave the audience what they expect (normal food orders) before catching them by surprise with Dracula’s order. It gives the listener a fun jolt—one that, though unexpected, fits contextually into the Halloween station. You get this quick escalation of the scene with the unexpected, and then it comes back down to reality. 

Take It to the Extremes 

Take a trope, a cliché, an archetype, something that is so well known, the audience is just about to roll their collective eyes—then push it further. That push disrupts the experience to create something new and provoke laughter. We did just that for Tostitos’ for their Hearty Dippers campaign, playing up all the moments when you might be “about to crack.” 

Tostitos
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We’ve all known someone who was a little too quick with their acoustic guitar (inspiring all the cringe). This ad plays on that common experience in an over-the-top way before quickly pivoting into a relevant brand message. Before those out-of-tune twangs can make us crack, Tostitos encourages us to dip a hearty chip—all in 15 seconds.

Look, I’m a self-centered person, and that colors everything I do creatively. I always start off by putting myself in the middle. 'What would make me laugh, or cry, or buy this brand of premium organic sustainably-sourced oven cleaner?' For this Tostitos campaign I heard ‘crackable moment,’ and thought, 'What would put me over the edge?' And the answer was, is, and always will be, a guy with a guitar.

Sara AltermanSenior Copywriter, Studio Resonate

Find the Human Truth 

The best comedy plays on a universal human experience and talks about it in a new way. Giving the audience something they can identify with, as well as chuckle about, makes your brand seem relatable. That’s how we merged human truth and Chevron’s brand talking points into one memorable ad experience. 

Chevron
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Singing in the car is a universal human truth, and Chevron put a new spin on it with this traffic driver ad product for a sing-along station. We played into the legal limitations of using recognizable music in the ad. So, the announcer pipes in to frankly acknowledge the situation before the singer can really flex her pipes on a well-known song. Then ad directs listeners to the Lip Sync Roundtrip station while seamlessly delivering some brand talking points.

I like to think about humorous devices I can lean on—a pun, a break in the fourth wall—and build concepts accordingly. In this Chevron script, I thought about what it’s like to be on a road trip with that friend who thinks she’s the second coming of Adele. We all have one, and she’s usually pretty annoying. So, I wanted humor to come from our vocally-challenged underdog putting a stop to the performance.

Veronica KwiatkowskiSenior Copywriter, Studio Resonate

Dos & Don’ts for Funny Audio Ads

There are plenty of ways to find the funny, but your brand’s humor should be just that—its own brand of humor. Any of the comedic styles above can help your jokes land with consumers, but only if you take your brand, your audience, and the context into consideration.

When writing for humor in audio ads…

Do

  • Incorporate proven comedy techniques. Get to know the craft and use some tried-and-true approaches like those listed above (and beyond).

  • Learn what your audience laughs at. Who are you looking to amuse and motivate? Look for universal concepts for broad audiences or tailor your approach for specific audiences.

  • Make the brand the hero. Whether the product is saving the day or making life more enjoyable, be sure to make the brand stand out.

Don’t

  • Try too hard. Cue the “hello, fellow kids” meme. Good comedy should feel natural and effortless. The audience should smile (not grimace).

  • Go low or derogatory. Avoid making fun of an audience or demeaning people who don’t have a relationship with the brand (unless you’re lucky enough to be running Wendy’s X account).

  • Sacrifice the brand for a punchline. Comedy can be unexpected and surprising—good comedy often is—but don’t overshadow or damage your brand for a laugh.

If you’re ready to infuse some humor into your next audio campaign, we’re serious about being funny. Want to make your listeners laugh and your brand stand out? Studio Resonate copywriters are here to help.

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