"Explore the different types of humour that are used in television advertising".

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  1. Executive Summary                                               3

  1. Introduction and Research Objectives              4                                                      

  1. Previous Research                                                  6      

4.0   Research Design                                                      8  

5.0   Analysis                                                                  12                              

  1. Limitations of the study                                     24

  1. Conclusion                                                            25

  1. References                                                             26

  1. Appendices                                                           27

  • Humour Questionnaire                              28

  • Table of Results                                           30


“Explore the different types of humour that are used in television advertising”.

  1. e

1.0 Executive Summary

This report aims to investigate which types of humour are more prevalent in television advertising.

Codruta & Gail’s (2001) study of the seven classifications of humour was used to compare the study’s findings. It was discovered that silliness was used mostly in television advertising and this was similar to the results of Codruta & Gail’s own research. Observation was carried out over four days and between the hours of 18.00 to 22.00 hours. ITV was the chosen channel from which research was collected, as it is one of the most popular terrestrial channels with a wide ranging audience. In order to ensure the validity of the sample questionnaire, a benchmarking exercise took place, highlighting any errors or any ratifications needed.

Analysis has been presented to indicate key findings and relevance they have on the study.  Food adverts were shown to be most humorous from all the different product categories. Characters were the main reasons for respondents finding adverts funny and research illustrated most humorous adverts were shown between 19.00- 20.00. To conclude, improvements have been suggested.

2.0 Introduction and Research objectives

Humour can be defined as ‘the ability to be amused by things, the way in which people see that some things are amusing, or the quality of being amusing’ (Source: Cambridge Online Dictionary). Humour is widely used within advertising today whether this is on radio, in print, or on television as part of everyday marketing communications campaigns.

Television advertising tells ‘most of its stories in thirty second bursts’ (Voight, 2003). With such short time frame to communicate a message across, advertisers have used humour as a way of breaking through the noise and clutter in an attempt to grab the attention of the viewer. Feelings evoked through the use of humour can also lead brand positive associations, as well as increasing the comprehension levels of the viewer (Batra, Myers, Aaker, 1996).

Although humour is commonly used in advertising campaigns today and due to the complexities involved in its measurement, the actual effectiveness of humour as communications tool is still a subject of much debate. On one hand, humour can enhance positive attitudes towards the product being promoted. On the other hand, the use of humour may be regarded as unsuitable for the product that is being promoted. If humour draws attention away from the product or message that the advertiser is trying to communicate, what is the real effectiveness of it as a tool of communication and why do advertisers still use it?

The objective of this study is to explore the different types of humour used in television advertising and to identify which is the most widely used, in an attempt to address whether the use of humour in advertising is at all effective.

Therefore, to explore these ideas, the following research objectives have been set:

  1. To identify the number of television adverts that contain some element of humour, in comparison to the proportion of those that do not;

  1. To determine whether humour is used to promote all types of products, or a specific group of products;

  1. To determine the type of humour used most in relation to the product that is being promoted;

2.1 Hypotheses

Hypotheses are an important part of the approach to a research problem. Usually a hypothesis is a possible answer to the research question (Malhotra, 2000). In relation to the above objectives, the following hypotheses have been developed.

  • This study will attempt to verify Codruta and Gail’s (2001) findings that

              silliness is the most frequent type of humour used in advertising.

  • There will be a significant difference between product category and the type of  

      humour used.  

  • There will be a significant difference between types of humour used and the level of funniness.

3.0 Previous Research

A number of studies have been conducted regarding the use of humour in advertising. Although humour has been used in advertising for many years, due to its complexity in nature, only a few have been able to understand its actual impact and effectiveness (Weinberger and Gulas, 1992).

Despite humour being an effective mechanism for drawing attention, it is crucial for advertisers to find the appropriate type of humour for the appropriate product in order to ensure success. Attention is enhanced if the type of humour used is directly related to the product that is being promoted, therefore increasing advertising effectiveness.

Codruta & Gail (2001) have identified seven main classifications of humour that are used in television advertising. These include: 1) comparison; 2) personification; 3) pun; 4) exaggeration; 5) sarcasm; 6) silliness, and; 7) surprise. Although silliness was found to be the most popular type of humour used in television advertising, very few studies have directly compared the effectiveness of the different types of humour against each other. Nevertheless, a study by Speck (1987) concluded that although there were many differences between the types of humours used, no one type had a substantial universal impact, whether this be positive or negative. Furthermore, the effectiveness of the type of humour used in order to achieve the desired communication goals is still uncertain.

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Weinberger and Spotts (1989) have further identified that the different types of humour used in television advertising varies by product category. Television adverts for products such as snack foods, deserts, beer and alcohol and tobacco tended to be more humour dominant in comparison to other product groups.

Madden and Weinberger (1982, 1984) further stated that the effectiveness of humour in advertising varied across product groups. Weinberger and Gulas (1992) later went on to identify two dichotomies, which constituted product category. These include whether the product was fictional or actual, as well as whether it was a high ...

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