No one likes a person who’s full of themselves. So why do brands—who profess to want to humanize themselves to consumers—often use their advertisements as a place to brag? Consumers already avoid advertising as much as they possibly can. As the American Marketing Association puts it, we are officially in the generation of the “ad-agnostic millennials.”
So how do brands grab the attention of jaded consumers? The answer is simple: They make fun of themselves. When brands poke fun at their flaws, consumers view them as down-to-earth and relatable; it’s the same phenomenon that makes Jennifer Lawrence so popular.
Without further ado, here are some examples of companies that get serious cool points with millennials by being a little self-deprecating:
1. Internet Explorer
Microsoft had the cojones to admit that their browser, Internet Explorer, was considered an ancient artifact by most 18–34-year-olds. So, they made a smart move and paired up with Onion Labs in order to bring that audience back to their side:
This commercial is so funny because it has a certain truth to it. We all have a friend who rails against Internet Explorer and probably forcibly removed it from someone’s computer at some point. (Or you may be that person yourself.) Internet Explorer acknowledges their uncool status here and flips the joke to make fun of the people who love to hate them. The fact that there’s a cat in a police outfit doesn’t hurt, either.
In 2012, The Onion published an article that completely lampooned sponsored content, titled “Hey, Everybody! This Cool New Tide Detergent Video Is Blowing Up All Over The Internet!” You would think that the publicity would cause Tide’s PR person to have a Nicholas Cage-style freakout. (If you need a good laugh, definitely click that link.)
Instead, Tide decided to take the criticism in stride and released a response video to The Onion. Check it out:
This video is so smart because it allied Tide with The Onion; a standard press response would have made them feel like the bland corporation who doesn’t get the joke. Consumers seem to agree that the company made a good choice. Check out some of the YouTube comments:
Any brand would be happy with that response—assuming half of those commenters don’t work for Tide’s PR agency.
3. The Muppets, “Sequel Song”
In Hollywood, it’s well known that ardent fans of a certain movie will always complain that its sequel isn’t as good. The creators of Muppets Most Wanted, the Muppets sequel, decided to address the issue before anyone else could. Better yet, they did it with music. And Tina Fey:
Hopefully this adorable video will shut up any icy-hearted demon who was going to complain about there being more Muppets in the world. But let’s be real. We need Kermit and Miss Piggy more than they need us.
Bonus: Here’s a Muppets promo in partnership with the Toyota Highlander that features Rowlf and Rizzo hitting on unsuspecting girls at a drive-through in ridiculous fashion (“Do you date dogs?”). Those puppets definitely know how to have fun.
Let’s be honest—if you run America’s most popular porn site, you need to have a sense of humor about your line of work. The same goes for the company’s creative director. But how can someone make ads for porn in public places? It’s a challenge. However, PornHub had an ingenious solution. They turned the job application process for their next creative director into a competition. The finalists can be found here—and yes, it’s safe to open that link at work.
5. Dissolve, “This Is a Generic Brand Video”
Clearly, there’s a trend of companies riffing on satirical websites here. This hilarious parody of brand videos is inspired by an article written for McSweeney’s, “This Is a Generic Brand Video.”
Dissolve, a stock footage company, took the narrative from McSweeney’s and synced it up to their own videos. The result had me cracking up in the office like a crazy person. Before I saw this commercial, I had absolutely no idea what Dissolve was. But by the time the narrator said, “What about an ethnic old man whose wrinkled smile represents the happiness and wisdom of the poor?” I just had to Google what geniuses were behind this masterpiece. Now I, a supposedly “ad-agnostic” millennial, am a fan of the company. Mission accomplished, Dissolve. Mission accomplished.
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