Home » How to Use Humor in Your Advertising the Right Way

How to Use Humor in Your Advertising the Right Way

I can count on one hand the times I have tried something new because of a television ad and I would still have several fingers leftover.

I tried Sam Adams Light Beer after they ran a commercial talking about how they took their Sam Adams Light to a beer festival in Germany and won first prize … even though there wasn’t a “light beer” category. (It was easily the best light beer I have tasted, but not necessarily the best beer I have tasted, not to mention difficult to find in stores.)

I bought two flavors of Pringles a couple weeks ago. Just like the Super Bowl commercial showed me, I put the two flavors together to make a new flavor. Barbecue and Jalapeno pair up fabulously. That helped get me home on a long, tired drive from up north. I had forgotten that ad when I talked about the 2018 Super Bowl Ads, but it obviously struck a chord with me since I recalled it the moment I was standing in front of the Pringles display contemplating which flavor to buy. I give them a thumbs up because they taught me to buy two flavors instead of one. I bet they have seen a spike in sales since that ad, especially if they are still running it.

Now I am seriously contemplating buying some Duluth Trading Bullpen Underwear. Here is the ad that caught my eye …


This ad (and most of their campaign) is a homerun!

  1. It doesn’t look or sound like anyone else’s ads.
  2. It makes only one point in a clever and unexpected way.
  3. It tells a story, one that men know all too well.
  4. It speaks to the heart by talking about a felt need and getting you to laugh, too.
  5. It speaks to the tribe of men. (A female companion told me she hated that ad. Like magnets, the ability of an ad to attract is equal to its ability to repel.)
  6. It makes “you” the star.

“Keep your boys where they belong.”

Yes, it hits on all six of the principles that make an ad more effective.

The best part of Duluth Trading’s campaign is the humor. Unlike Doritos, Dr. Pepper and Progressive Insurance, Duluth trading has found a way to tie their humor directly into the benefits of the product. The humor isn’t gratuitous.

The humor is used to drive home a point.

Progressive is running an ad right now that has a guy talking about how he and co-worker look exactly alike (spoiler alert: they don’t) and how he knows they look alike because he is good at comparisons. Unfortunately, the message I get is that Progressive must NOT be good at comparisons because this guy sucks at them.

Time and time again I see really funny or moving ads, but the funny or touching part has nothing to do with the company or product the ad is supposedly pitching. People remember the funny but forget the company or product. In Duluth Trading’s ads, you won’t ever have that problem. The humor is tied directly to the benefits.

If you want to use humor in your ads, do what Duluth Trading does and use the punchline to drive home the one point you are trying to make.

I’m looking forward to a new pair of underwear. (There’s a phrase you won’t often hear.)

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Duluth Trading is doing a few other things well.

First, they are running a campaign, not an ad, with a distinct and unique style. All of their ads use similar cartoon art, the same voice-over, and the same unexpected humor. Those three elements combined have a residual effect. You liked some of their early ads because of how fresh and surprising they were, so you perk up when a new ad comes on.

Second, they are speaking to the felt needs of their tribe. One easy way to speak to the heart and speak to your tribe at they same time is to identify a problem common among your tribe, and then show how you solve that problem. I’m looking at adding their ballroom jeans to my shopping list after ripping the crotch in my jeans while loading and unloading a moving van yesterday.