It was one of those eye-opening moments. I was watching Bryan Eisenberg teach Call to Action — the seminar, not the book. (Even though I’ve seen him teach it several times, I still learn something new every time I attend.)
He showed the “Bra Scientist” video clip by Zafu that I blogged about last year.
As the audience was watching the clip, I noticed something interesting: There were certain points when the men were laughing and the women weren’t. And there were other points when the women were guffawing but the men weren’t even smiling.
The guys laughed when the scientist asked the woman in the parking lot if she would talk about her “um, well… you know, uh… breasts.” It’s a funny line, well delivered. (The guys found it funny, anyway.) She responds “Sure” and the scientist is quite pleased the interview can continue. But then she kicks his head off. Literally.
Some of the women looked a little shocked, but for other women, it garnered full-on belly laughs.
Why is this important? Because humor is one of the most pervasive devices advertisers use to try to sell products. Is that humor hitting the mark with target audiences? A recent Advertising Age article claims that “Snide Advertising is Bad for Business and Society” (subscription required but it’s available here).
In the article, Richard Rapaport discusses “the nasty tone that seems to dominate advertising” and “commercials built on sadism, on derision, on one-upsmanship — in a word, ‘snide.’” He gives this example:
Another building block of snide advertising is physical aggression. Consider the quite literally shocking ad for Priceline.com in which William Shatner enters the house of a frustrated online vacation shopper and stuns him with a Taser before sitting down at the man’s computer. “Did I zap your daddy?” Shatner coos at the man’s disquieted child. “Yes, I did,” he admits, “but I saved him lots of money.”
I’m not sure what percentage of Priceline’s audience is women, but women book more online travel than men do. I wonder how they feel about that ad.
While I do believe some humor is universal, I think there are certain types of jokes and subject matter that men find funny that women don’t, and vice-versa. Part of what makes something funny is that it rings true to you (“Oh my God, I’ve so been there!”). Different content may speak more to one gender than the other.
Eric Berger at the Sci Guy blog asked if women have a better sense of humor. One comment grabbed my attention. A reader named Scott has this to say:
The women in my office say that the reason they have less expectation of a reward is that most guys tell such bad jokes, and repeat them over and over. Women don’t tend to be entertained by jokes about bodily functions, sexual performance, or many of the other common topics of guy jokes. I’ve never heard a woman tell a Christa Macaullife/Space Shuttle Challenger joke, yet there are guys who still crack up over them. So perhaps women have a more “refined” sense of humor, not necessarily a “better” sense of humor.
Interesting. There’s a fascinating study done by Professor Hugo Carretero Dios at the University of Granada that finds that humor depends on the person. Or, as the press release claims, “Scientific research on sense of humor sheds light on psychological profiles.”
Carretero Dios observed a generational change in the women’s preferences to the different types of humour. “There has been change in women’s values and roles in our society,” says Carretero Dios. “In people over 45-50, we observed that both men and women laughed more at jokes degrading to women than those degrading to men”. At the same time, both men and women showed more rejection to jokes degrading to men.
However, among the participants between 18-25 years old, the trend was different and men and women had different reactions. Men laugh more at jokes degrading to women and reject those degrading to men. By contrast, women laugh more at jokes degrading to men and reject those degrading to women. Indeed, this trend is more pronounced in women.
“Could these findings show a change in educational values or even a new pattern in the roles played by women”
I think the whole subject deserves more analysis, but it underscores the importance of understanding who your audience is and how gender could affect whether that audience thinks your ads are funny.
What ads have you seen recently that you found funny — or unfunny — and why?