10 Ways Brands Can Be Funnier Than Your Awkward Uncle

Truth, trust and other signposts worth following

After two decades in advertising, first as a copywriter and then as a director, I still have a lot to learn. But one thing that's become clear is that laughter always wins. If you can make a consumer laugh, they're on your side. 

Sure, pundits and strategy folks try to break down jokes in hopes of distilling and recreating them, but that's a fool's errand. When a joke works, it just does. Here are (maybe) some reasons why: 

1) There's nothing funnier than the truth. Pinch, poke and prod your brand from every direction until something unique shakes out— the more specific the better. A dating app isn't inherently funny. There might, however, be something funny about a dating app for creatures that can't afford to go on even one bad date, like mayflies. 

2) Trust is everything. If your doctor says your arm is broken and you don't trust them, find another doctor. If your ad agency says something is funny and you don't trust them, find another ad agency. 

3) Funny people in funny worlds are not funny. Serious people in serious worlds are not funny. For proof of the former, watch an Adam Sandler movie. For the latter, watch Schindler's List. 

4) When someone expects your joke to zig, make sure to zag. 

5) Your spouse is not an arbiter of humor. Unless your spouse is Gilda Radner, because even dead she's funnier than your spouse. 

6) Some creatives are better at presenting than others. Their goofy grins and great delivery can make bad jokes seem good. Try to look past this. Great humor always contains an element of truth. There's always that "nod of the head," as if to say, "Yeah, that's true. I never thought about it that way." This is the concept. And without an honest concept, jokes just feel cheap. 

7) Trust your gut. Humor is not philosophy, but philosophy can be humor. 

8) People like it when brands make fun of themselves. It's OK to be vulnerable. Go ahead and poke yourself in the eye from time to time. Unless you're a cyclops. 

9) Thanks to your MBA, you're really good at breaking down numbers and graphs. 
Please don't apply these same methods to jokes. 

10) A director's job isn't to make your script funny. It's to make it funnier. 

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Alex Grossman
Alex Grossman is an award-winning comedy director. His work includes the "Pitching French Films to Hollywood" ad series for Alliance Française de Singapour, which won gold at the Clio Awards in 2018.