Some time ago, my uncle played me a recording of Derek and Clive, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s famously crude radio show.
Now, when I say it was crude, I mean it was crude. Look it up if you don’t believe me.
And when I say it was some time ago, I mean I was four years old.
Suffice it to say, then, that I was probably a touch too young for the material. My grandmother certainly seemed to think so when she walked in on the scene.
But according to my uncle – who still can’t recount this story without (sheepishly) laughing – that’s what made it so hilarious. Having absolutely no idea what any of it meant, I recited my own version of the recording. Replete with every four-letter word you can imagine, and a few besides.
In other words, the incongruity of the situation made it funny. Just as it did in this great ad from last year, which also featured swearing kids.
There’s no doubt that incongruity can be a powerful device in advertising. Think of the famous VW ‘Lemon’ ad or, to take a more recent example, the Snickers ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ campaign.
And yet so much modern advertising seems to actively eschew incongruity.
Stock images. Young people. Platitudes. All in banal, boring harmony.
Such ads are not only internally congruous, but externally congruous as well. That is, they look the same as every other ad. It’s almost as if there has been a deliberate attempt to prevent them from standing out.
To illustrate this problem, here’s a briefing template I put together a while ago.
At the risk of stating the obvious, this bland uniformity is no way to get your advertising noticed. It’s certainly no way to elicit an emotional reaction. And as for getting a laugh: when was the last time you laughed at something you completely expected?
A bit of incongruity can greatly improve your advertising. I swear by it.
Connect with me on LinkedIn