See How Advertising Agency Humor Can Sell You

When I owned my Portland advertising agency I was always looking for a way to really grab the attention of a business development prospect the second they hit our home page.

I mean grab them. Excite them. Hold them. Sell them.

An approach that I considered over and over was to have a stand-up comedian do one or more video sets about advertising issues, the issues that our agency would solve plus toss in some self-deprecating agency humor. The key here was to immediately capture home page attention, look different and find a way to deliver our sales pitch via laughs. For some reason, I never made the decision to go this route and I kinda regret at least testing it.

A new liquor company looking for marketing help approached me last week. As I was starting to think through their objectives, product line and target market opportunities, I began a search for what is currently considered smart liquor advertising. One of my advertising agency clients pointed me to the Deadpool actor Ryan Reynold’s Aviation Gin. I’ll get back to him in a minute.

Does Humor Work?

In the olden days, say pre 60’s advertising (think of the great Volkswagen advertising), humor was frowned upon. Here’s a quote from advertising luminary Claude C. Hopkins. I’m not sure when he said this but chances are good that it is from his 1923 book, Scientific Advertising.

Don’t treat your subject lightly. Don’t lessen respect for your self or your article by any attempt at frivolity. People do not patronize a clown. There are two things about which men should not joke. One is business, one is home. An eccentric picture may do you serious damage. One may gain attention by wearing a fools cap. But he would ruin his selling prospects.

Hopkins’s disdain for using humor is very pre-the great days of uber-creative advertising. But, it does suggest that humor might not work in every situation.

Would using humor work in advertising agency B2B business development? My answer is a strong yes. Across my blog posts and book on pitching, I discuss how important it is that we understand that people buy from people they like. In a world of look-a-like advertising, PR, and digital agencies, it is imperative that you deliver some personality in your B2B marketing. No, you do not need to sound like Chris Rock. But, you do need to show some YOU. Otherwise, you might just look too much like THEM – all the other agencies that your prospect is looking at.

While not all agencies can pull this off, take a look at Canada’s John St. to see how they pull this off. Or, just head over to my blog post on how to be unignorable.

Back to Ryan Reynolds

Here is one of Ryan’s Aviation Gin intro videos. Ryan is a master of deadpan. While funny, the sales pitch sells. It is not humor for the sake of humor. It is humor that delivers the sales pitch while creating an immediate bond between the viewer and the product.

Maybe you should test this approach. Bonding is a good thing. By the way, the video has 1.5 million views in its first 6 weeks.

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