Funny is hard. That’s why we need more of it.

By James Maxwell on Sunday, 9 June 2024

According to Kantar, the last twenty or so years have seen a serious drop in ads using humour. The case in finance appears to be even more dire. We could thank the 2008 banking crisis for a dip in trust and therefore a push in the industry to be seen to be a tad more earnest.

Only 33% of the ads researched incorporate some form of humour, yet a study from Oracle found 90% of us are more likely to remember an ad if it’s funny. And 48% said they didn't feel they had a relationship with a brand unless it made them smile or laugh.

Humour has a unique power to break down barriers and connect people on a human level. Whether wit or slapstick, humour can blow the doors off cultural and linguistic boundaries, drive fame and build bonds.

What do you get if you cross pink frilly fun with a serious issue?

In a world filled with serious issues and divisive rhetoric, humour serves as a unifying force, offering a moment of relief and levity amidst the chaos. But we still seem to think that severity is the much more powerful tool in campaigning, and hold it in much higher regard.

By underestimating the value of “light-hearted” content, we overlook the skill and creativity required to effectively execute humour. And we underestimate its impact.

Funny is hard, and crafting a genuinely amusing advertisement or film requires a deep understanding of human psychology and cultural nuances. That’s why those that do it will really reap rewards. As they say, smile and the whole world smiles with you.

And speaking of the rest of the world…

Barbara from Bank World is a genius creation from ANZ Bank that recognises all the things about banks we detest and all brought to life in one woman. To personify an abstract series of issues with service and lay them bare as mini entertainment works, it’s great fun to watch and totally memorable.

Shifting continents, South Africa has a long history of treating insurance with humour. King Price Insurance runs ad after ad using pun-based humour. Every single one is a masterpiece in its own right. You end up loving the brazenness of the brand. Insurance and love in the same sentence? Must be a joke!

The American ad for Wealthsimple Crypto is also great fun and well executed with humour.

Closer to home, at Teamspirit we’ve co-opted cultural references of the hippie movement for asset managers with “All we are saying is give yields a chance”. We’ve told the public to “Tell your savings to get off their AERs”. And more recently we’ve re-energised the pensions market using the chaos and humour of Timmy Mallett.

None of these are afraid to be funny or fun. Nobody shying away from puns. And each is both memorable and brand-affirming.

It's time to recognise that humour deserves to be taken seriously in banking, investing, insurance advertising and comms. We should celebrate its ability to entertain, educate and inspire. And bluntly, deliver change. Whether it's a campy advertisement or a joyous film, humour has the power to bring people together, challenge conventions, and spark meaningful conversations. And nowhere could use more of a laugh than financial services.