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Family - A Seattle Advertising Agency

Where Comedy is Most Effective in the Marketing Funnel

Comedy Advertising

Why Comedy Is the Most Effective Way to Advertise

The hotel manager was pounding on the door outside the Grand Ballroom of the Four Seasons Hotel in Seattle. Inside were two sturdy production assistants barricading it shut. Shooting a promo for an upcoming television show, we had come to the shot where we were carving through a five-foot ice sculpture with a chainsaw. When we originally booked the room, I might have asked the production coordinator to leave out the part about the whole chainsaw thing.

A popular television show had a milestone anniversary coming up, so I wanted to shoot the promo in an appropriate location, someplace classy. In the past, we had traveled hundreds of miles for the right location – the year before it was on a mountaintop. But this show was gonna be a big one. The host was in a tuxedo, I had ordered a magnificent ice sculpture of the show’s logo, and I had the perfect location. A location that was quickly filling up with smoke because I went a little cheap on the chainsaw and it was belching out blue air turds like a fog machine turned up to the “Deep Purple Concert” setting… not to mention the noise.

My band of turncoat interns had scurried away at the first sign of trouble, which allowed the manager to find his way into the ballroom through a different, unprotected door. I had just yelled “Cut!” on the final shot as the manager rushed toward me. Now, you have to know that Architectural Digest had just shot this very room the week before. It’s one of the oldest, most ornate ballrooms on the West Coast, and all that blue smoke was nearly choking everyone when the manager gave me a heavy tap on the shoulder. I screamed “Wrap!” and turned to face him.

Where you shoot your commercial is always important. And knowing when and where to use comedy in your marketing funnel is just as important. Sure, funny ads win awards, but do they sell? Let’s take a deeper look at where comedy is most effective and where it is not.


We’ll begin with a primer. Here’s the simplest way to understand how people make complex purchasing decisions.

  • They fall in love.

  • Then they rationalize why that is true or why that is not true.

  • Satisfied with their emotional and logical reasons, they take action.

It’s been true since Elias St. Elmo Lewis created the marketing funnel in 1898, and it’s gonna be true for another hundred years – because it’s basic human behavior: A.I.D.A. That’s Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.



Whether you’re delivering a broadcasting, digital or out-of-home campaign, you need to break through the clutter of distractions out there. You’re buying attention, not impressions. You do that by becoming more valuable than the thing you’re interrupting. Today, you’re competing with everything from games and social media on people’s phones to compelling storylines on television. You know, the entire world. So you’ve got to be worthy of your audience’s time-starved attention. Make ’em laugh and you might earn a few moments of their time. But that’s only the first step in the customer journey.



After you’ve got the consumer’s attention, the next steps in the marketing funnel are interest and desire. You want the consumer to consider your brand and then build a preference for your brand. Qualified leads will likely want to learn more. To help them accomplish this, your approach should become more educational. This is where comedic approaches become a little trickier.

Most consumers investigate brands through the internet, which affords endless opportunities to create compelling and informative experiences. The biggest issues arise when the comedy gets in the way of the content or slows the learning down. The best humor to use in this part of the customer journey is small humor: little smiles or witty lines. Your goal should be dispensing information, not crafting belly laughs. If you want to frustrate potential customers, put a clown between them and the information they’re interested in learning.

Marketing Funnel


The bottom of the marketing funnel is where we want to trigger an action in the consumers, or make it easy for them to take action on their own. This is the least effective place to inject humor. The other components higher up the marketing funnel have greased the skids with comedy. This is where you want the strongest call to action, to stimulate performance. Here a chuckle or giggle is frosting on the cake, while at the top of the funnel laughter is mission-critical to break through the clutter. Never confuse the two.

So in general, you need to dial back the laughs as consumers move down the marketing funnel. Humor can be used to make the experience more enjoyable, but it should never get in the way of your objectives. Identifying the best places to use humor in the marketing funnel is almost as important as the jokes.

I had just wrapped in the Grand Ballroom at the Four Seasons, and the manager was standing right behind me. I spun around, not know if he was going to throw me out, call the cops or slug me in the face. Instead, he screamed, “This is going to be great! Can I get a copy?” One of his lieutenants appeared behind him and said that the guests were beginning to complain. The manager turned to me and said in a very serious tone, “We’re done here?” I nodded and he responded to his lieutenant, “Tell them we’ll take care of it immediately. And open all the doors. This place smells terrible.”

Mike Johnston is a production executive and advertising creative in Seattle. He is available for freelance consulting, writing and directing. Contact Mike


Want to know more about marketing strategy? Read "What You Need to Know About the Marketing Funnel."

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