5 Brand Videos That Comedians Love
I remember the first time I saw the Hillshire Farms “Go Meat” commercial with my friends; we were all practically choking on our Pixy Stix we were laughing so hard. Looking back, the insane levels of sugar might have played a role in our spastic laughter attacks. Nevertheless, it was only a matter of time until we’d taken the lyrics and made a number of spinoffs, including a “YMCA rocks!” cheer that got adopted by our entire summer camp. Talk about brand advocacy and word-of-mouth marketing.
A lot of companies try to create branded videos that will make their audience laugh out loud, but it’s not an easy feat. While many attempt to be funny, most of them fall short… or fail miserably. Case in point:
Candy has never made me so depressed. Which Skittles exec thought that associating their colorful treat with dead babies was a good idea? My theory is that most companies are missing an essential ingredient when it comes to creating funny ads: a comedian. After all, who knows funny better the people paid to create it?
I polled some of the funniest comedians I know about their favorite commercials. Here’s what I found:
1. Super Smash Bros: “Happy Together”
“This commercial totally fires on all cylinders,” says Kevin Flynn, comedian and founder of The Bunion, a satirical Boston University publication. (Full disclosure: I am a writer for The Bunion.) “It hits you in the face and draws you in with a jarringly cute shot of your childhood heroes skipping along. It quickly turns violent, but the happy song ironically persists. This is funny enough by itself, but there’s also something really intelligent about the execution. This commercial is weird, it’s silly, and it knows it. Everyone loves a good mascot fight.”
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @flynncredible.
2. John West Salmon: “Bear Fight”
Standup comedian and author Streeter Seidell first saw this commercial 15 years ago, but he still thinks it’s one of the most hilarious ads he’s ever seen. That says something about the spot’s originality.
This ad shares something in common with #1 and #5 on the list: They’re all funny because they have an unexpected twist at the end.
3. AT&T: “It’s Not Complicated”
This series of ads, directed by Jorma Taccone from The Lonely Island and starring actor Beck Bennett, are favorites of comedian Cody Brotter.
“I’m a big fan of the Good Neighbor Stuff guys and The Lonely Island guys, and I was a fan of Beck’s ‘Fresh Perspectives‘ before they turned them into commercials,” Brotter explains. “I’m a tutor and babysitter and just find kids naturally hilarious when they’re allowed to be unscripted like that.”
Don’t believe that it was actually totally improvised? Check out the behind-the-scenes video:
4. Starburst: “Little Lad”
Most of you probably remember—or have been scarred by—the infamous Starburst “Little Lad” commercial. If you’ve somehow forgotten what a fully grown man dancing in a Dickensian outfit chanting “berries and cream, berries and cream,” looks like, here’s a refresher. You’re welcome.
Standup comedian Jamie Loftus loves this ad: “Was it the inherent randomness of the late aughts? Yes. Was it the incorporation of an asinine dance? Yes. Was it the start of my thing for short dudes with bowl cuts? Hell yes.”
With over ten and a half million hits on YouTube, the commercial must’ve been hilarious to a lot of other people as well. That’s a lot of nightmares—and crushes on short dudes with bowl cuts. And it’s all because of Starburst.
5. Rubber Cement: “Nuns and Cement Glue”
I’d never seen this commercial until filmmaker and funny woman Sriya Sarkar recommended it to me. All she said was, “It has a really funny twist at the end. Literally.” To find out what she meant, I had to check it out:
The commercial relies on pure base humor; it risks offending some religious people, but ultimately succeeds in being completely hilarious. You can’t please everyone and still be funny. A+ for this one.
The ultimate recipe for funny
So, what can companies learn from this list in order to make their own commercials funnier?
1. Have an unexpected twist at the end of your branded video. It will make viewers more likely to share it with their friends, and more people will finish the video because they want to see what happens.
2. Don’t be afraid to use weird humor. Ads like “Little Lad” went viral because people hadn’t seen a character like him before, and they loved it.
3. If you can, use actors who are already well known for their comedy. They don’t have to be big stars. Pull from places like YouTube, where many established vloggers and channels have cult followings. This way, you’ll already have an audience of people who will watch, and most likely share, your video.
4. Try improvising a few takes. The AT&T commercials were a hit because of the kid’s adorable, honest answers. If you can get actors who are great improvisers, you might end up with dialogue that’s way funnier than your original script.
Bonus: Don’t make jokes about dead babies. I hope Skittles didn’t have to teach you that one.
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