14 hilariously effective online campaigns

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What happened to schmaltz? The sorts of ads in which kids ran and hugged their moms in delirious approval for peanut butter sandwiches or quilted toilet paper -- these used to be the keystones of branding, at least in mom-centric dayparts. What happened to enjoinders to "Bake someone happy?" Or puffy doughboys giggling when poked? Or bottles of fluorescent whitening agents giving mommas the magic?

What happened to schmaltz? And maudlin? And "slice of death"?

Digital happened. Since the advent of digital, the number of brands using humor to deliver their messages has grown markedly. One can only surmise that this is because humor "works." It works at both connecting brands to audiences and at reshaping brand imagery in powerful ways.

Of course, humor doesn't always deliver results for brands. Many have tried to "do" humor and have flopped. Sometimes the jokes get overshadowed by the ferric fist of brand identity. Sometimes we laugh at the ad and forget the brand. And sometimes the humor is gratuitous -- a way to attract attention, but not shaped to serve brand messaging goals.

Humor is hard to do, but perhaps even harder is crafting funny programs and messages that deliver real brand benefits. As we all know, assessing the impact of any creative on brand strength is pretty squishy science. But we can identify creative programs that drove buzz and virality online, and through this identification process attempt to tease out some core principles of brand beneficial humor.

So let's begin, shall we?



Jim Nichols
Jim Nichols January 28, 2009 at 10:06 PM

Hi Tim,

I appreciated your thoughts, especially on Tea Partay which still makes me laugh out loud at the 50th viewing. Perhaps Tea Partay is the American equivalent of Little Britain's Vicky Pollard -- I get why she's funny, and I can even be slightly amused, but as America is 100% chavless, she'll never "speak" to me like it may speak to someone in London or Liverpool or Bradford. Well yeah but no but yeah but.

Truth be told, I suppose we aren't entirely chavless now that Posh is here.

Anyway, loved what you had to say.

Tim Trent
Tim Trent January 28, 2009 at 8:14 AM

I think this proves that humour is not international. I also cannot see myself participating in the viral part.

the New England Tea Party is, to me, pathetic instead of funny. It goes on far too long, and totally misses people by the huge lack of anyone, male or female, being drop dead gorgeous. So there is no way I would pass this to my straight nor to my gay friends, not even to mock it.

The Durex one is "cute", gets the point (pun intended) across, and sells condoms, maybe. I did viral that, to a friend in another humour zone, Germany. Ok, stop laughing. The Germans giggle as much as we all do. He would not viral it either.

Fat Boy Dancing? Not the beer ad, no way. This went viral though: I'll see if I can embed it.

Good article, because it shows the huge difficuties of a viral campaign