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IndustrySpeak: Humour in ads can disarm consumers, but how much has it evolved in India?

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IndustrySpeak: Humour in ads can disarm consumers, but how much has it evolved in India?

Humour, they say, is a universal thing, and Indian advertising couldn’t more. Today, clients are spending serious money on it, while channels are banking their TRPs on making viewers laugh. Humour has been used as an effective creative tool for nearly 2-3 decades now. However, it is a tricky tool. There have been times when the humour has fallen flat. If one’s brand of humour doesn’t go down well with the viewers, the brand is in deep trouble.

Brands like Fevicol, Kurkure, and Perfetti Van Melle and their respective creative agencies have leveraged humour successfully to defy conventional wisdom, which says humour trivialises the brand.

Fevicol is a classic example, where the brand is synonymous with humour and is a leader in its category. Recently, Tata Sky used the stand-up style of comedy for its brand strategy and communication. Where in the past we saw punch lines like ‘It’s different’ (Maggi) and ‘Pappu pass ho gaya’ (Cadbury’s), today humour is not limited to just one genre of comedy – like over the top or subtle comedy.

KV ‘Pops’ Sridhar, NCD, Leo Burnett India, believes that today Indian advertising is more of a scripted humour, which is not comedy-comedy that will make one laugh loud. It is more of a humour that adds a smile to one’s face and makes one feel nice. Citing some examples, Pops mentioned said ads like Happy Dent and Himani Fast Relief had a witty comment on the society, about how today we are all mechanically involved, but still keep going as we have no choice.

However, according to Pops, the main challenge was to incorporate the humour keeping in mind the brand personality. He explained, “The challenge will always be that the commercial and the brand value is alive even after the ad has gone off air. One of the brands that I can recall even after 30 years of its communication is Strepsils. The quality of sensitiveness and longevity is like homeopathy treatment, where one enjoys having the pills and it also works as medicine. Secondly, timing of humour/ comedy in a particular creative should be good. Poor or silly jokes only shorten the brand’s lifespan.”

On the same lines, Sumanto Chattopadhyay, Executive Creative Director, South Asia, Ogilvy & Mather India, explained that the challenge would be in keeping the comedy and the brand well integrated with each other. According to him, Perfetti brand ‘Centre Shock’ was one example that had such a combination.

According to Chattopadhyay, humour was a great tool to disarm the consumers and make them receptive to the brand’s message. He explained, “Through humour you are not making the consumer laugh at the brand, but making the consumer laugh with you. However, humour is used differently in different culture, where as in India, it’s more of a loud kind of humour. But again, as the audiences become sophisticated, humour as the tool also gets evolved as per your TG.”

Bobby Pawar, Chief Creative Officer, Mudra, felt that Indian advertising still needed to explore more when it came to humour. He said, “There are many forms of comedy that we are yet to experience. So, I think the graph to comedy for us has a long way to go. But I would definitely say we have done some good work using comedy as a tool in our creatives because the best way to entertain is to laugh. But what the challenge here is to understand that there are many different form of comedy and realise it as an entertainer and not just an advertising person to do it really well.”

As for Ramanuj Shastry, CCO, Rediffusion DYR, “Humour is an emotion that can never be explained as ‘evolved’. Comedy will always be as per its time and generation. So, what is funny right now for the generation creates humour. And for me, if something makes my partner or me laugh, is counted as funny. So, I would not agree that there is a fear of sorts before presenting our humorous creative idea before the client or audience whether it would make them laugh or not.”

Prasanna Sankhe, NCD, Publicis Ambience, felt that the real challenge that Indian advertising faced today while using this tool in its final avatar was the area of proper casting of characters. According to Sankhe, “Earlier, humour was used in a very loose way. Now, it has evolved as a tool to get the brand message efficiently. However, I still think Indian humour is still finding out its stage.”


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