Dimensions of Humor in Advertising

Updated June 22, 2021

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Dimensions of Humor in Advertising essay

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According to (Fugate D. , 1998) the rate at which humor appears and the excitement of its followers is not always vindicated by empirical measurement of results. The effortlessness of humor gives way to more complicated interactions when causal relationships are analyzed. Significant studies on humor indicate that the nature of the product, the medium, targeted audience, the communication goal and the placement of the message all affect the behavioral responses of consumers.

Controlling for these experiences is just a partial solution to humor research because it is difficult to exactly define what humor is or is not. In (Lynch & Hartman, 1968) study, it shows that a personal sense of humor is not a one-dimensional construct; it is compose of many different elements. They propose that sense of humor is a multidimensional and that it includes at least the following six dimensions:

  1. Humor production.
  2. A sense of playfulness
  3. The ability to use humor to achieve social goals
  4. Personal recognition of humor
  5. Appreciation of humor
  6. Use of humor as an adaptive mechanism

(Stern, 1996) further argues that individual and cross-cultural differences may influence the determinations of what is humour, like beauty, may be in the eye of the beholder. Industry wisdom has made warnings such as making sure that humorous material does not sidetrack the attention from the message. There should be subtle rather than gross humor. Relating humor to the product. Avoiding humor that makes fun of the customer and being alert to humor’s rapid wear-out.

Different Style of Humour in Advertising

A (Hatzithomas, 2011) study focusing on the comparison of the use of humor across countries (Korea, Germany, Thailand and the USA), concludes that there is one type of humor, which works across all compared countries: incongruity. (Alden, Mukherjee, & Hoyer, 2000) The incongruity concept is based upon a difference between the partly or fully contrasting scripts. Slapstick humor is purely culture bound.

In certain countries humor is used extremely well in advertising, in others it is not. Humor is an important component in many British advertisements, but it is less important in US or Canadian advertising. (Pornpitakpan & Tan, 2000) There are two related humor types; incongruity and incongruity-resolution. Incongruity is by far the most useful method of humor applied in advertising. In line with this thinking there are theorists who believe that incongruity combined with resolution improves the sudden or incongruous situation, making a greater humorous impact (Flaherty, M.G., & C.S., 2004)

The Benefits of Humor in Advertising

(Spotts, Weinberger, & Parsons, 1997) Humor research is plagued by many complications and many variables can interfere with the relationship between a given humorous advertisement and its outcome, thereby creating lots of contingent relationships with possibly divergent effects. They further repeat that maybe the best way to resolve these complications in the study of humor is to analyze humor effects across various studies so that the strengths of one study can balance the weaknesses of another. (Weinberger & Gulas, 1992) conclusions about the advantages of humor in advertising are:

  • Humor attracts attention. Most studies conducted in both advertising and education carry this out.
  • Humor does not harm comprehension. Some studies indicate that it is more likely for humor to have no effect. This more optimistic view of humor is firmly favored in the educational research and in the views of British advertising.
  • Humor improves liking. In fact, the link between humor and liking is stronger than for any of the other factors
  • Related humor is superior to unrelated humor. However, to date, there has not been enough research conducted to determine if a particular form of relatedness have a differential advantage.
  • Humor is used in different types of products, but its effectiveness is more successful with existing rather than new products. Humor also seems to be more appropriate for low involvement products and feeling-oriented products.

(Weinberger & Gulas, 1992) further state that humor will not, and never had been, a magic wand that assures more effective advertising, however success is defined. In Spite of the increasing numbers of humor in advertising which may lead into overstating the case for humor in advertising. It is important to understand that humor can be relevant and effective in some cases but not in others.

According to (Fatt & T., 2002) humor is one of the criteria in granting awards for the most efficient advertisements. However, he continues, publicists generally make the mistake of using humor just for the sake of using humor.

According to (Fugate D. , 1998) the benefits with humor in television advertising are that:

  • It grabs attention
  • It helps people to remember the advertisement – and therefore the message
  • It shows we are human – we can laugh and smile with the rest of humanity
  • It improves our brand image for the product.

Consumer Responses to Humour Advertising

Humour above all have a positive influence on emotion and attitude but have a weaker effect on cognitions and behavioral responses (Scott, Klein, & Bryant, 1990). Researchers have used numerous theories to explain the impacts of humour in advertising. The theories are classified as either cognitive or affective. Cognitive theories and models include the information processing model which is humour attracts attention towards the advertisement, improves elaboration, and thus improves attitude (Eisend, 2009).

The distraction effect i.e. humour distract consumers from processing counterarguments, thereby positively influencing there attitudes (Krishnan, Shanker, & Chakravarti, 2003). The vampire effect i.e. humour draws attention to the humorous part of the advertising message but distracts consumers from processing brand-related cognitions (Evans, 1988), (Kuilenburg, Jong, & Rompay, 2011).

Affective theories and models refer to assessing conditioning or affect transfer, thus implying that humour causes a positive effect that increases attitudes towards the advertisement and the brand, intentions, and behavior (Gelb & Pickett, 1983); (Strick, Baaren, Holland, & Knippenberg, 2009). (Eisend, 2011) integrated affective and cognitive models, thus showing that humour in advertising influences both affect and cognitions, which in turn influence attitudes and intentions.

Factors that affect the relationship of humour in advertising and its outcomes

(Gulas & Weinberger, 2006) Several moderator variables have been investigated. They can be broadly classified as factors related to product type, media factors, context factors, and individual and social audience factors (demographic, psychographic, cultural, etc.). Research indicates that humour impacts are increased if humour fits the product (Chung & Zhao., 2003).

If the media is rich and if humorous ads are watched together with others (Zhang & Zinkhan., 1991). Results further show that humour works best if the kind of humour fits the demographic characteristics of the target group (Gulas & Weinberger, 2006). Humour effects vary across countries, gender, age, and education; and that humour effects depend on the processing style of respondents (Zhang Y. , 1996). their sense of humour and their brand or product experience (Cline, Altsech, & Kellaris, 2003).

(Swani, Weinberger, & Gulas, 2013)Study shows that, on men more violent and aggressive humour type tends to work rather than on women (Yoon, Jin, & Kim, 2014) a more thorough theoretical explanation is missing. As for culture, the findings are similar to those related to the use of humour in advertising. Effects of humour advertising varies across different countries and cultures (Lee, Hwai, & Lim, 2008), but neither humour research nor advertising research provides a theoretical background that explains the cross-cultural differences in humour effects.

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