A Global Comparison of Humor in Advertising: Final Findings

It has taken four months, roughly one hundred emails and too many horrible puns, but I’m proud to say that I have made my global comparison of humor in advertising between the U.S. and U.K. What I’ve found has been somewhat surprising and the insights that I have gathered will be very helpful in my professional career.

In summing up my final key findings, I must start by saying that there certainly seem to be more similarities than differences when it comes to the process of creating advertisements with humorous content. Initially, I assumed there would be more differences. Why else would we run different ads for equivalent brands and products?


A still from Mariachi Doritos, an ad only ran in the U.K.

I’ve found by talking to both U.S. and U.K. advertising practitioners that it is not so much the process or even the humor itself, but the culture and the audience that each individual brand is dealing with. Most comedic campaigns that are successful reflect a specific culture in some way. Advertisers run with current events, trends and attitudes that are rarely universal across different regions of the world. According to Creative Director Richard Doory, humor in advertising seems to work best when the topic is niche and the audience finds it relatable to their personal and “unique” senses of humor. As an audience, we do not want to laugh at the same things. We like the demographic and geographic boundaries that make us and our senses of humor different.

Advertisers understand that consumers identify as individuals, but when it comes to using humor in advertising, there are elements of humor that will almost always overlap no matter where and who your audience is. Senior Copywriter of TDH, Jared El-Mofty explained one of those consistent elements of humor is the unexpected. While Jared, and other writers agree that there is no formula for coming up with successful humorous campaigns, a sense of surprise along with culture specific content generally works well wherever your audience is.

On top of these methods of actually creating ads, similar concerns exist between the the U.S. and U.K. when making sure content is acceptable to the public. About a month back, I summed up significant findings from my U.S. studies and discussed how ranging sensitivities, fragmented audiences and risks with mega-spending clients play a large role when developing advertising content. After several interviews here in London, I realized that those are major concerns for U.K. practitioners as well.

Based on all of these similarities in developing campaigns for two geographically separate sets of consumers, it seems the only difference is the content. Content is different not only because of global differences in culture and language, but because consumers want the content to be relatable in more than just a general sense.

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In a word

Mark Turner is editing the world, one word at a time

Lauren Nicole Miller

Journalist. Communicator. Storyteller.

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