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Types of Humor in Television and Magazine Advertising.

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Humor humour,?according to ancient theory, any of four bodily fluids that determined man’s health and temperament. Hippocrates postulated that an imbalance among the humours (blood, phlegm, black bile. Yellow bile) resulted in pain and disease. That good health was ?is used to sell products. There are many types of humour

and different hinds are used most effectively with different media. This

article looks at various hinds of humour and how often they’re used

in print and television advertisements A television advertisement, advert or commercial is a form of advertising in which goods, services, organizations, ideas, etc. are promoted via the medium of television. , helping managers determine when

–. When not –. To use humour.


Humour is often used in print and television media to sell products.

How effective is it? It depends on how you look at it

While it’s used frequently, humour in advertising remains

controversial. On the one hand, humour has been credited with calling

attention to an advertisement [8,9,15], increasing comprehension of the

ad [15], contributing to the positive attitude towards the ad [1,3,4] and

enhancing the positive attitude towards the advertised product [4]. On

the other hand, the use of humour may not be suitable for certain

products or services, is thought to lead to faster advertising

“wear out”. [16], may offend some members of the audience and

may result in the so-called “vampire vampire,?in folklore, animated corpse that sucks the blood of humans. Belief in vampires has existed from the earliest times and has given rise to an amalgam of legends and superstitions. ?effect,”. Where the humour

sucks attention away from the advertised product/message [2,14].

When deciding whether to use humour, therefore, it’s important

to think about your audience, your message, your medium, your product

and, last but not least, the type of humour. This last component has been

overlooked in most of the research previously done on advertising in the

media. Could prove helpful to decision makers.

As previous research has revealed [17,18], our study shows that

humour is used more frequently in television commercials than print

advertisements. For the most part, however, previous research has lumped

all of “humour”. Into one, indiscriminant category. In this

article, we'll look at different types of humour and which types are

used most by which media The main purpose of this study is to help

managerial decision makers use humour most effectively by considering the

types of humour available to them.

Seven Reasons To Laugh

In a nutshell, our study set out to determine whether the type of

humour used in advertising varies by medium. We found that it does, which

suggests that managers should definitely consider the type of humour as a

variable in their decision to use –. Not use –. Humour in their

particular advertisements. In other words Adv. 1. in other words –. Otherwise stated. “in other words, we're broke”
put differently , different types of humour are

more effective and better suited to different types of media, as

we’ll see a little later in this article.

Since most research over the years hasn't recognized different

types of humour, there is no universally accepted classification, or

taxonomy taxonomy:?see classification.

In biology, the classification of organisms into a hierarchy of groupings, from the general to the particular, that reflect evolutionary and usually morphological relationships: kingdom, phylum, class, order, ,”. Of humour [5]. However, more recent research has

recognized the value of developing a nomenclature nomenclature?/no·men·cla·ture/ (no´men-kla?cher) a classified system of names, as of anatomical structures, organisms, etc.

binomial nomenclature ?for the various types

of humour used in advertisements [10,13]. And some researchers have

grouped humour into categories that are either conceptual, theoretically

oriented [11,12], technique-oriented [6] or applied,

practitioner-oriented [10].

To establish consistency with the scant previous research that's

considered different types of humour, we used Reick’s

practitioner-oriented classification system. This system defined five

types of humour: exaggeration Exaggeration
Bunyon, Paul
legendary giant, hero of tall tales of the logging camps. [Am. Folklore: The Wonderful Adventures of Paul Bunyon]Jenkins’. Ear
trivial cause of a great quarrel. [Br. Hist. , pun pun,?use of words, usually humourous, based on (a) the several meanings of one word, (b) a similarity of meaning between words that are pronounced the same. (c) the difference in meanings between two words pronounced the same and spelt somewhat similarly, e.g. , put-down put·down?or put-down  
n. Slang
1. A dismissal or rejection, especially in the form of a critical or slighting remark: “Such answers were, perhaps still are, a . . . , silliness and surprise.

To provide a more complete –. More clearly delineated de·lin·e·ate? 
tr.v. de·lin·e·at·ed, de·lin·e·at·ing, de·lin·e·ates
1. To draw or trace the outline of. Sketch out.
2. To represent pictorially. Depict.
3. ?picture –

we added two more categories: comparison and personification personification,?figure of speech in which inanimate objects or abstract ideas are endowed with human qualities, e.g., allegorical morality plays where characters include Good Deeds, Beauty. Death. .

Here’s how we define each of these terms:

1. Comparison –. Putting two or more elements together to produce a

humourous situation. An example is a magazine advertisement for Hewlett

Packard. On one page the ad features a happy family in a Christmas

picture that's to be sent to the grandmother. Everything would be

perfect if the son didn't look like a punk in a leather jacket (Zool.) A California carangoid fish (Oligoplites saurus).
A trigger fish (Balistes Carolinensis).
See also: Leather Leather , chains

and an outrageous hair-do. The second page of the ad presents the same

picture. This time with a very conservative son who's nicely

dressed with clean, short hair. With the help of HP PhotoSmart Hewlett-Packard’s line of digital cameras and photo printers is called Photosmart. Digital cameras
The original HP digital camera was a CompactFlash-based model simply called the Photosmart. It was a VGA-resolution camera with a simple LCD. ?System,

which allows modification of pictures, the ad claims the

“grandmother spared holiday shock, heirs breathe easy.”

2. Personification –. Attributes human characteristics to animals,

plants and objects. The Benson &. Hedges advertisement depicting

cigarettes engaging in human-like activities is an example of

personification (see Figure 1).

3. Exaggeration –. Overstating and magnifying something out of

proportion. One of Wendy’s commercials makes use of exaggeration as

two young men order “4 Biggie big·gie? 
n. Slang
1. A very important person: “hassles between executive biggies”?New York.
2. ?Fries and 4 Biggie Drinks”. At a

drivethru. As soon as they pick up the order, the car tilts on one side.

4. Pun –. Using elements of language to create new meanings, which

result in humour. The phrase “absolute masterpiece”. Takes on a

new meaning when it's pictured with Absolut Vodka (see Figure 2).

5. Sarcasm –. According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by. On the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. ?Reick, sarcastic sar·cas·tic? 
1. Expressing or marked by sarcasm.
2. Given to using sarcasm.

[sarc(asm) + -astic, as in enthusiastic. ?comments or situations

are classified as silliness. In our study, however, sarcasm is a

separate category including blatant ironic responses or situations. An

advertisement for Lexmark features a sister and a brother in conflict.

The brother, with his legs up on the desk, is thinking of printing

“some sort of a real cool sign”. His room. The

sister’s sarcastic response is “How about ‘For


6. Silliness –. In this study, silliness ranges from making funny

faces to ludicrous situations such as the one created in the commercials

for “1800-Collect,”. When a couple of muscular men run around

the beach on their toes to avoid the hot sand. Another example is the

commercial for the Weather Channel in which two men paint their faces

red and blue in an effort to predict the weather.

7. Surprise –. Includes all advertisements where humour arises from

unexpected situations. The advertisement for Primestar Satellite TV

makes good use of the surprise element to arrive at a hilarious outcome.

The ad starts with a man carefully washing his car. Just before he gives

the car a kiss, he notices a giant pipe rolling down rolling down
The liquidation of an option position by an investor at the same time that he or she takes an essentially identical position with a lower strike price. ?the street towards

him. In a state of desperation, the man manages to quickly move his car.

As he breathes a sigh of relief, the punch line punch line
The climactic phrase or statement of a joke, producing a sudden humourous effect.

punch line
the last line of a joke or funny story that gives it its point
Noun 1. ?hits the audience: The

car is badly damaged as he saves the satellite dish satellite dish
A dish antenna used to receive and transmit signals relayed by satellite.

satellite dish
A parabolic antenna used to receive signals relayed by satellite. , which he initially

intended to protect by moving his car.

How We Conducted the Study

Once we clearly defined the types of humour, we analysed the content

of advertisements appearing on television and magazines. We selected the

following magazines for their diverse target audience:

Fortune (bi-monthly) –. One issue per month between January 1997 and

June 1998 was randomly selected

New Woman (monthly) –. Every issue between January 1997 and June


Time (weekly) –. Every issue between January 1997 and June 1998.

The sample consisted of 4,064 advertisements in all. Duplicates

weren't included. We also selected television commercials broadcast

during the week of June 15, 1998 to June 21, 1998 on cable television in

Sacramento, California “Sacramento”. Redirects here. For other uses, see Sacramento (disambiguation).
Sacramento is the capital of the State of California and the county seat of Sacramento County. . All specific channels and times are illustrated

in Exhibit 1. We recorded a total of 633 commercials, excluding

duplicate commercials and commercials about shows and movies.

The categories of humour we outlined earlier made it easy to

classify the advertisements. Contributed to the reliability and

validity of our analysis. In those few cases where the advertisement

displayed more than one category of humour, we selected the type of humour

that was judged to predominate.


As previous research has shown, our study revealed that humour is

used more in television commercials than print advertisements (see

Exhibit 2). These findings support the belief of advertising and

creative executives that television is a more effective channel to use

humour [91.

But there’s much more to the story than that. As shown in

Exhibit 3, our study reveals that the type of humour used in television

and magazine advertisements differed (chi square chi square (kī),
n a nonparametric statistic used with discrete data in the form of frequency count (nominal data) or percentages or proportions that can be reduced to frequencies. ?=27.65, p=.000O1).

“Sarcasm”. Is the most popular form of humour used in magazines,

while “silliness”. Predominates in television.


What're the managerial implications of all of this? First,

it’s important to decide whether or not to use humour at all in your

advertisements. Humour may not he appropriate or effective when

advertising certain types of products. The type of product can also

determine the best execution style, how to best communicate a message

and how effective a television commercial will be as measured by recall,

comprehension and persuasiveness.

According to previous research [7], the most effective execution

styles for various products aren't always those used (which indicates

that more research may be needed in the future).

Previous research also indicates that the demographic and

psychological charactristics of the target audience may very well have

an impact on how effective humour in advertisements will be. For example,

research has found that using humour in advertisements has a positive

effect on attitude and purchase intentions for individuals whose need

for cognition
Main article: Elaboration likelihood model

The need for cognition, in psychology, is a personality variable reflecting the extent to which people engage in and enjoy effortful cognitive activities. ?is low rather than high [19].

Our study goes beyond most previous research to consider the

various types of humour and which types might be most effective under

which circumstances. The fact that certain types of humour are used more

often by different media suggests that the effectiveness of the type of

humour may differ by medium. Different types of humour may be better

suited for different types of products as well.

In short, it’s important to consider the type of humour when

making a management decision about whether or not to use humour in the

execution of advertisements. For example, presenting your message using

silliness may be well received by the target audience, whereas sarcasm

may be offensive. Considering humour type –. Rather than a single,

generalized category –. Should refine and improve managerial decision



(1.) Belch belch
To expel stomach gas noisily through the mouth. Burp. , G.E. and M.A. Belch. “An Investigation of the

Effects of Repetition on Cognitive and Affective affective?/af·fec·tive/ (ah-fek´tiv) pertaining to affect.

1. Concerned with or arousing feelings or emotions. Emotional.
2. ?Reactions to Humourous

and Serious Television Commercials.”. In Kinnear T.C., ed. Advances

in Consumer Research, Association for Consumer Research, Provo, Utah,


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Perspective,”. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science,


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(5.) Gruner, C.R. “On the Impossibility Impossibility
See also Unattainability.
belling the cat
mouse’s proposal for warning of cat’s approach. Application fatal. [Gk. Lit. ?of Having a Taxonomy

of Humour,”. Paper presented at the Ninth International Conference on

Humour and Laughter, Brock University Brock University,?at St. Catharines, Ont., Canada. Coeducational. Founded 1964. It's faculties of humanities, social science, science and mathematics, education, business. Physical education and recreation. , St. Catarines. Ontario, Canada,


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(8.) Madden mad·den? 
v. mad·dened, mad·den·ing, mad·dens
1. To make angry. Irritate.
2. To drive insane.
To become infuriated. , T. and M. Weinberger. “The Effects of Humour on

Attention in Magazine Advertising,”. Journal of Advertising,


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Practitioner View,”. Journal of Advertising Research, 24(4),


(10.) Riech, D. “Waiting for Guffaw guf·faw? 
A hearty, boisterous burst of laughter.
intr.v. guf·fawed, guf·faw·ing, guf·faws
To laugh heartily and boisterously.

[Probably imitative. : A Serious Look at Humour

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MI: Division of Research, Michigan Business School, University of

Michigan (body, education) University of Michigan –. A large cosmopolitan university in the Midwest USA. Over 50000 students are enrolled at the University of Michigan’s three campuses. The students come from 50 states and over 100 foreign countries. , 1991, 1-44.

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Time Mon. Tues. Wed. Thurs. Fri. Sat. Sun.

9:00 am-11:00 am X

10:00 am-noon X

11:30 am-1:3O pm X

Noon-2:pm X

6:00 pm-8:00 pm X

8:00 pm -10:00 pm X

10:30 pm-1:30 am X

Television commercials were recorded from all the following television

channels. CBS, FOX, MTV, TNT, ESPN, KMAX, KOCA, CMDY during the

indicated times.


Medium Total # of Ads Total # of Humourous Ads % Humourous Ads

Magazine 4064 201 4.95%

Television 633 166 26.22%


Type of Humour Magazine Television Total

Comparison 29 9 38

Exaggeration 17 12 29

Personification 26 25 51

Pun 37 25 62

Sarcasm 47 21 68

Silliness 29 48 77

Surprise 16 26 42

Total 201 166 367

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