Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tuesday Tip No.44 - Be Funny All The Way Through

A new tip for the new or newish Creative.

When given a TV brief, many teams come up with scripts that depict a normal or everyday situation, with a twist at the end.

This can work well. But the fact is - it has to be a helluva twist to compensate the viewer for the previous 25 seconds of boredom.

I believe you are much better off creating a commercial that is 'funny all the way through.'

In other words, a commercial where the entire situation or set of actions is inherently funny (or surreal/interesting/bizarre/beautiful/dramatic), rather than normal or familiar.

By way of example, here's two 20-second ads for the same brand. The first is an everyday scenario with a funny gag at the end; the second launches very quickly into a fresh and funny mode of behaviour.

WKD 'Bath'

WKD 'Drill'

Whether they are good ads or not isn't the point here, I just want to state that the second is clearly better than the first.

Recent awards juries back my view.

Looking at the Gold and Silver-winning commercials from this year's BTAA, here are the ads which (in my view) are funny from the beginning:

Skoda Cake
Sony Music Pieces
Cadbury Gorilla
Sony Play-Doh
Boots Here Come The Girls
Levi's Dangerous Liaison
Sony Music Pieces
Procter & Gamble Interview
Bryclcreem Effortless
The Big Yellow Storage Company Tide
Volkswagen Night Drive
Vodafone Time Theft
Vodafone Cartwheel
Volkswagen Toy Story
Adidas International Impossible is Nothing - David Beckham
Thorntons Stuck
BBC Amazing Music - Russell Brand

And here are the ones (all three of them really good ads, incidentally) that have a twist at the end or near the end of a 'normal' or stock situation:

Boots Moment of Truth
Carling Space
Carling Out

I think a lot of Creatives start out by writing ads that are jokes, naturally with a punchline. And of course there are many cases - Volkswagen 'Surprisingly Ordinary Prices' Lamp Post for example - where the normal-situation-followed-by-punchline structure works well. But... they're quite rare. Especially compared to the number of really bad ads that use that structure.

So my tip today is to try to think of a funny or interesting situation that has the brand promise woven into it, rather than just writing a joke.

Previous Tips:

How To Do Virals; How To Get A Pay Rise; Be Wary Of Punding; Challenge The Brief; Tell The Truth; Playing To Lose; How To Write Headlines; How To Do Direct; How To Do Radio; How To Do Press; How To Do TV; How To Do Digital; How To Do Posters; Look At Weird Shit; Presenting To The Client; Presenting To The Team; Presenting To The Creative Director; How To Deal With Rejection; Look Creative; Don't Be Afraid To Ask; Your Idea Has To Be 120%; Read Iain's Tips; Don't Behave; How To Discuss Ideas; Read Hugh's Tips; How To Get A Job In Advertising Part IV - How To Turn A Placement Into A Job; How To Get A Job In Advertising Part III - How To Approach Agencies (re-print of Tip No. 7); How To Get A Job In Advertising Part II - How To Put A Book Together; How To Get A Job In Advertising Part I - FAQ; Make Friends With Traffic; Get Reference; Don't Stop Too Soon; Be Very; Breaking Up; Working Well With Your Partner; Finding The Right Partner; How To Approach Agencies; Never-Seen-Before Footage; Dicketts' Finger; Two Blokes In The Pub; Play Family Fortunes; Should You Take A Bad Job?; Don't Overpolish


Anonymous said...

Well the 'Tide interview' advert was an odd winner though, eh? It was somehow entered into Cannes last year and won, yet it had never run until this year. Nowhere in the States even. it more 'proactive' fraud from the Saatchi NY crew perhaps? Not hard to do if we can just shoot them ourselves and the client can decide if they like them only after they've won an award, I suppose.

Lunar BBDO said...

Carling Space is funny all the way through. Out, ditto (but less so). Actually, Boots Moment of Truth is at least intriguing all the way through (not exactly a 'normal situation' having 500 people stare at you on a beach. Unless you're me with my alluring musculature).

Anonymous said...

Do you mean 'interesting all the way through'?

Levis isn't really funny, nor was Music Pieces but you're interested enough to keep watching, aren't you.

I thought Thornton's was also interesting because you couldn't help asking yourself why has someone paid good money to make a load of crap like this?

Anonymous said...

Which one of those ads was funny?

Scamp said...

Anon/Big Fat - by 'funny' I mean funny/surreal/interesting/bizarre/beautiful/dramatic.

Lunar - Yes I was wrong about Boots. I just mis-remembered it. But I do think I'm right about the Carling ads.

In 'Space' it's a standard (though well-shot) space film, until the line "Hang on, are those trainers?" which comes at 20 seconds.

In 'Out' it's a very familiar Scott of the Antarctic set-up until the line "It's my birthday" on 25 seconds.

Both great gags, and really good ads. To me, they demonstrate how hard a trick it is to pull off. If you haven't got a gag as good as those ones, you're stuffed.

Anonymous said...

This is very funny all the way through. It's the winner of the dance off's video.

Anonymous said...

Stuff and nonsense scamp.
In space, the 'trainers' gag comes proportionally towards the front of the commercial. It's funny all the way through.
Fair enough topic for a post, but feel your teaching examples let the point down somewhat.
tsk tsk. Even Losers BBDO blog is starting to look better than yours.
I blame your Norris Mcwherter acclaimed 200 plus commeneted post on tfl. History will say that's where it all started to cheapen somewhat.

Scamp said...

Space is not funny all the way through. It's deliberately familiar up until the rug-pull, which comes one-third of the way in. That's just how it works. So you're wrong about that, though I agree that Lunar's blog is much better than mine.

Lunar BBDO said...

No, no. He said LOSERS BBDO. I assume they're someone else entirely. It is true, though, that you don't 'laugh' at Carling until the trainers line, which is indeed a twist rather than a continuation of the tone thus far.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Alright then.
It's two thirds funny. And that, my friend, is a majority in my book.
Funny ad.

Anonymous said...

when i'm driving somewhere, and i find myself about a third of the way i percieve myself to be fairly early on in the trip and may partake in a soothing frijj chocolate milkshake... so carling shoes is funny early enough on for me to consider it wholly amusing and not partlially ticklesome...

Anonymous said...

anon 9.31am
that's about as funny as this blog

Anonymous said...

Am I the only person who thinks that both the Carling Ads are really quite poor? The jokes are so lame and dated...

Anonymous said...

It's interesting looking at a lot of ads which have a good gag, but then very teniously link to the product - it seems that American comedy ads are more guilty of this than any, but viral ads are now starting to follow suit.

Anonymous said...

I like the Carling ads - Space is definately the stronger - the casting is great - love the delivery of 'I thought they were quite smart actually' line.

What is it you don't like about them anon 11:56?

Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

I agree with Anon 11-59

Anonymous said...

I think an analogy could be drawn with the Scamp blog itself.

Pretty dull for quite some time.

Then a percentage of the way into it some scallys pinch an idea for TFL and then it became bloody hilarious.

Anonymous said...

funny all the way through or just at the end?

both good...but what's better?

only one way to find out....FIGHT.

p.s i like the Carling stuff looking forward to them doing more.

Anonymous said...

Scamp - don't want to pick over old bones, but we are in march.
When, exactly, is ITV gonna 'kick our asses this year?'
yours, A. N. Elephant

nikoherzeg said...

this makes much sense to me Mr Scamp, as most creatives are not pro comics, trained to have timing tone of voice and ability to deliver a punch line..they are however,witty and funny.

Like most real life conversations that are funny without a point or intent (this being the crucial element), a funny from the beginning structure would seem to yield more results

but the again I seem to rip off Seinfeld every chance I get, so what do I know

Scamp said...

Mr Elephant - your butt-kicking is imminent. Keep an eye on the newspapers and poster sites of Britain, that's all I can say right now.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11.59 -

They just don't make me laugh. Don't think they're evil or awful, just think (as Scamp suggests) that unless the punchline's an absolute belter (for example, John Smith's "Ave 'it"'t think of any more, which is worrying), you shouldn't make the gag.

I've watched people watch the Carling ads in pubs (yes, I am single and struggle with social interaction) and they don't get a laugh from the target audience either.

Not slagging them, just wondering why we British creatives struggle to get the genuinely funny ads out when that's what the public love to see...

Anon - 11.56

4am said...

dear scamp, i've just started reading your blog and really like it (recommended by lunarBBDO). do you have a job number for my timesheets?

Anonymous said...

agree. never bet the farm on a single gag. start funny and get progressively funnier.

and don't bother with establishing shots and all that cinema nonsense. if your ad is in a pub we don't need to see the outside of the pub. it's a pub. we get it. the clock is ticking. move on.

Anonymous said...

>>>>Not slagging them, just wondering why we British creatives struggle to get the genuinely funny ads out when that's what the public love to see...>>>

i've often wondered about that too. charming humor used to be a mainstay of uk advertising. now everything feels like it was put together with tweezers. i guess being actually funny involves going out on a limb and not worrying about whether it's cool or not.

the pg tips thing with the monkey puppet was the last truly funny british ad i can think of.

Anonymous said...

maybe more pro comics should get into the ad game...
It just surprises me that British commercials aren't more funny. The Brits are known for their sharp wit. I know when I was in England everyone (even the average joe) seemed a lot funnier than most Americans I know.

Anonymous said...

unfortunately the control is back with too many robotic account men these days for whom cutting edge humour simple does not compute for the client.

Anonymous said...

to everyone who thinks the carling ads are in some way fresh, i have two words for you: little britain. i have four words for you: the league of gentlemen. I have two more words for you: mighty boosh.

those spots just aren't very adventurous by comparison.

i know there's a sentiment that wants them to be funny. but alas no.

Anonymous said...

No ad will ever be as funny as the best comedy sketches, as stunning as the best music videos or films or as thought provoking as the best poems or books. It's unfair to compare them because by its very nature advertising has to be populist.
Like Little Britain which is shit.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if that's true. It may not sustain over 4 minutes, but ads like Levi's Odyssey and Honda Cog/Grrr would stand amongst the best promos (for an appropriate song).

Anonymous said...

Most comedy ad scripts are victims of the old "death by a thousand cuts" treatment. Clients and account men (and probably some creative directors) don't seem to realise that something as simple as changing a single word in a gag can reduce the comedy.

You know that when you watch a really good stand-up, that as ad-libbed as it sounds, every word's been pored over and considered for maximum comic effect.

I think a good tip is to let a funny ad die early-on rather than change it, otherwise you end up with diluted bollocks.

Anonymous said...

Does cum master have diluted bollocks

Anonymous said...

There are no rules in humour.

You lot sound like an orgy of bad clients, researchers and account men trying to get to grips with that 'if I think it's funny I'll push forward' lever thing they use in research groups.

George said...

Anon 7.33. "No ad will ever be as funny as the best comedy sketches, as stunning as the best music videos or films or as thought provoking as the best poems or books"

I totally disagree - some of the most beautiful pieces of film in my opinion, are taken from commercials as are some of the funniest, cleverest gags - in fact, they are often better because of brand familiarity. The old Lynx ads (Getting Dressed is a stunning piece of film), many old Levis films, Dunlop - Tested for the Unexpected, Guinness from the good old days, Hondas ads of the last 5 years or so etc. etc.

Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

I absolutely agree with George.

My family were sat watching the Formula One when Cog came on for the first time. We sat watching in almost total silence at this breathtaking bit of film. That moment is up there with any tv or film moment I can remember.

Anonymous said...

hey. George is just agreeing with me. I said it first. God, it's hard enough mastering cum without being ignored on Scamp.

Anonymous said...

Good old rule of thumb from Buster Keaton, I think. An average comedian will do funny things, but a great comedian will make things funny.
Compare the first ad, with an unpleasant, tasteless twist. (Your target audience is a fat, prematurely aged yob called Darren, who's such a feckless twat that he can't afford to replace a 70s bathroom suite, let alone control his bowel movements) with the second, which is arguably a bit twee, but is the sort of things people do, which is funny at the time. First is a lazy sell that loses customers, the second is a smarter sell that wins them over.

Anonymous said...

Rob Mortimer
If you force your family to watch formula 1 then the new Sugar Puff ad would be a breathtaking creative epiphany.
Talking about comedy rules George Burns said that words with 'k' in are funniest. Clearly bollocs

George said...

Rob - I watched that very same Grand Prix, and the result was the same. I stopped everything and my jaw dropped.

It's true with comedy too - No comedy sketch would throw Alice Cooper and Ronnie Corbett together as flatmates - that was a stroke of genius.

The production value on commercials is often far superior too - and because of the attention to detail, particularly on special effects and very visual commercials, the ad is richer and often more polished.

Anonymous said...

Men who like Formula One are, almost without exception, cunts. I went to a barbeque at an ex-girlfriend's friend's house once. Her boyfriend answered the door in a Ferrari baseball cap. What a bellend.

Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

Anon 11-09, actually my family have always watched F1 since I can remember.

It was only that dull during the post Murray Schumacher years, and even then Hakkinen made it interesting for a while.

Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

Anon 11-22: Not true. Those are the same people who support Chelsea once they start winning.

Also, the sport has opened up much more in recent years because of Alonso and Hamilton.

Anonymous said...

Now this is fucking funny

Anonymous said...

Rob, old son, accept it:


Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

Anon 11-33: Like the kind of bellend who post anonymously whilst basing his bold opinion of millions of people based on one bloke he once met.

I bet you aren't a planner.


Anonymous said...

we (adfolks) don't get to set the bar for what's funny. the culture does that. and we either compete with that for real or we do pretend-advertising-funny.

laughter is an involuntary reaction. it doesn't matter if it's a tv show or a commercial.

and formula one is cool btw.