MIA: Black Humor in Advertising
Did you hear the one about…?
No, neither did we…
Background
#1’s
‖…was TV's biggest hit
in the 1980s, and almost
single-handedly revived
the sitcom genre and
NBC's ratings
fortunes‖—...
But Before All of That…
There Was This
Stereotypes: American Humor
and African Americans
• Prior to the Civil Rights Movement, African Americans had
little or no...
From 1964 Until Now
• In the past five decades, black humor in
America has been more and more defined by black people
and ...
Black Comedy Defined
Comedy = Culture
• Today comedy is recognized as a linchpin in
Black Cultural Arts
• It is also an acknowledged feeding gr...
Comedy = Commerce
• Black stand-up comedy has spanned a lot of attention from
general market media as well as African Amer...
• Despite the importance of comedy in African American
culture, it does not play as prominent a role in advertising
orient...
In Advertising,
Comedy ≠ Commercial
• While a few comedians, like Bill Cosby,
have made a lot of commercials, black
comedy...
Why the Disconnect?
• If humor is such an important part of African American
culture — just as much as music and dancing a...
• To answer these questions we must first explore what
black humor is
• There are currently three dominant strains of blac...
3 Types of Black Humor
The three types of black humor are grounded in three
different origins
Socio-political
Commentary
E...
Evolutionary Humor
Evolutionary Perspective
• Evolutionary social scientists say that humor has served
as a (non-violent) way in which to est...
Urban Dictionary: A Definition
of Playing the Dozens
• Playing the dozens is an African-American custom in which
competito...
• This State Farm ad (by the African American Ad Agency
Translation) is an example of humor grounded in Playing
the Dozens...
Storytelling Humor
Cultural Perspective
• African American culture, with its roots based in Africa’s
oral tradition, places high regard on st...
Storytelling
• The point of African American
folktales was to entertain the
listener while providing them
with information...
Storytelling Comedy
• Nowadays African American comedians tell stories to
showcase strategies for dealing with life’s trau...
Advertising Example: Not My Shoes
• This commercial for Lowe’s by Footsteps Advertising and
Marketing Agency uses storytel...
Socio-Political Commentary
Socio-Political Commentary
• As an out group member in America, African American’s
―double consciousness‖ has meant that b...
Commentary on America’s Irony
• The irony that America was a country founded on
individual rights and freedoms — yet, when...
Commentary Humor
• For African Americans, pointing out the contradictions
of American life was first heard in blues songs;...
Advertising Example: Gillette Face-off
http://www.gillette.com/en/us/mens-style/face-off-with-JB-smoove.aspx
• Gillette Fa...
Physical Imitation
An AA Niche: Physical Imitation
• Although black comedians can be animated in their
delivery, physical comedy/slapstick is...
Imitation of Life
• The few African American comedians who have made this
type of humor the mainstay of their act use phys...
• Wassup came from a short film by Charles Stone III and
his friends that was picked up by DDB, the ad agency for
Budweise...
Advertising and Black Humor
The Purpose of Black Humor:
That Black Humor Has a Purpose
• The Dozens
–Defining status amongst group members
• Storytell...
Humor With a Purpose
Is Not Humor “Just for Fun”
• Black humor is funny but it is funny with a greater purpose
and cultura...
Black Humor in Advertising
• To do funny black advertising, the humor must place the
brand within a cultural context to ma...
Black Humor in Advertising
• And that is why when a black person is used in a general
market commercial that is supposed t...
Black Advertising
• How to make good black advertising?
–Make a cultural connection between the brand and an African
Ameri...
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5
×

MIA: Black Humor in Advertising: Did you hear the one about..."? No, neither did we...

1,455 views

Published on

A historical cultural understanding by Footsteps of the use of humor when advertising to the African American community

0 Comments
1 Like
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Views
Total views
1,455
On SlideShare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
3
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
3
Comments
0
Likes
1
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

MIA: Black Humor in Advertising: Did you hear the one about..."? No, neither did we...

  1. 1. MIA: Black Humor in Advertising Did you hear the one about…? No, neither did we…
  2. 2. Background
  3. 3. #1’s ‖…was TV's biggest hit in the 1980s, and almost single-handedly revived the sitcom genre and NBC's ratings fortunes‖— TV Guide #1 Five Consecutive Years Nielsen Ratings ―Eddie Murphy is undoubtedly the most successful comedic actor of all time‖ — toptenz.net Movie gross $3.7 Billion ―…by the end of the '70s he became the highest-paid starring comedian in films‖— NY Times Comedy Central’s #1 Top Comedian
  4. 4. But Before All of That… There Was This
  5. 5. Stereotypes: American Humor and African Americans • Prior to the Civil Rights Movement, African Americans had little or no control of their images in the media, especially with regards to humor –It was quite literally black people (or people in black face) acting out the humorous denigrations of how people who were not black felt about them • This type of stereotypical humor dominated mainstream movies, radio shows, television, and advertising
  6. 6. From 1964 Until Now • In the past five decades, black humor in America has been more and more defined by black people and embraced by the black community as part of African American culture and a way to commerce –It has also come to be enjoyed by the general market as a genuine picture of African American perspectives
  7. 7. Black Comedy Defined
  8. 8. Comedy = Culture • Today comedy is recognized as a linchpin in Black Cultural Arts • It is also an acknowledged feeding ground for many black comedians and a pathway into general market movies, network television, and pop music
  9. 9. Comedy = Commerce • Black stand-up comedy has spanned a lot of attention from general market media as well as African American networks producing long-running and profitable variety shows and sitcoms
  10. 10. • Despite the importance of comedy in African American culture, it does not play as prominent a role in advertising oriented towards black consumers In Advertising, Comedy ≠ Commercial
  11. 11. In Advertising, Comedy ≠ Commercial • While a few comedians, like Bill Cosby, have made a lot of commercials, black comedy and black humor have been and still are largely absent from the advertising landscape
  12. 12. Why the Disconnect? • If humor is such an important part of African American culture — just as much as music and dancing and sports — why is it not used more in black advertising efforts? • And why, when used, are there so many questions about its appropriateness?
  13. 13. • To answer these questions we must first explore what black humor is • There are currently three dominant strains of black humor plus a small niche area 3 + 1
  14. 14. 3 Types of Black Humor The three types of black humor are grounded in three different origins Socio-political Commentary Evolutionary Playing the Dozens Cultural Story-telling
  15. 15. Evolutionary Humor
  16. 16. Evolutionary Perspective • Evolutionary social scientists say that humor has served as a (non-violent) way in which to establish either group membership or rank within the group –The theory here is that exchanging humorous put downs can establish whether someone has allegiance to the tribe and/ or what a person’s rank/status is within the group –For African Americans, this type of humor is translated as Playing the Dozens
  17. 17. Urban Dictionary: A Definition of Playing the Dozens • Playing the dozens is an African-American custom in which competitors — usually males — go head to head in a battle of comedic trash talk –They take turns "cracking on‖ (insulting) one another, their adversary's mother, other family members, heritage, or any of their physical characteristics or behavioral signatures until one of them has no comeback • In the U.S., the practice can be traced back to chattel slavery, when violence among slaves was a property crime with potentially draconian consequences. –Verbal sparring became a substitute for physical contention and status assignment
  18. 18. • This State Farm ad (by the African American Ad Agency Translation) is an example of humor grounded in Playing the Dozens • The back and forth putdowns of spousal preference between the African American male and female, coping with the aftermath of a car mishap, are in service of showcasing the proficiency of State Farm’s Agents Commercial Example: State Farm Ad http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I79Jmgb8nyw
  19. 19. Storytelling Humor
  20. 20. Cultural Perspective • African American culture, with its roots based in Africa’s oral tradition, places high regard on storytelling –In Africa, the griot was the history keeper of a tribe where it was said that ―when an elder passes on, it is as if a library has burned‖ –In America, African Americans continued that tradition using folktales, often with animals like Brer Rabbit, to help manage the process of coping with a new world
  21. 21. Storytelling • The point of African American folktales was to entertain the listener while providing them with information upon which to develop strategies for managing the New World –Wit was often a tool of the Brer Rabbit as the rabbit is an animal with little power except its nimble intelligence
  22. 22. Storytelling Comedy • Nowadays African American comedians tell stories to showcase strategies for dealing with life’s traumas and obstacles and taking advantages in situations where others see none to be had –This storytelling comedy can be either ―clean‖ (e.g., Bill Cosby or Sinbad) or ―profane‖ (e.g., Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy) • Either way it’s humor is grounded in the truth of real-life situations often times fraught with conflict, fears and anxieties
  23. 23. Advertising Example: Not My Shoes • This commercial for Lowe’s by Footsteps Advertising and Marketing Agency uses storytelling as a way to reflect on the manner in which her husband use to dress in his younger years • This commercial’s humor rests on the recollection of the colorful dressing style which the husband thinks is being a trendsetter and the wife thinks is just plain funny
  24. 24. Socio-Political Commentary
  25. 25. Socio-Political Commentary • As an out group member in America, African American’s ―double consciousness‖ has meant that black people often process the way in which they appear to the majority group in America, knowing that they are seen as group members (with attendant stereotypes) rather than as unique individuals (to be judged on their own merits)
  26. 26. Commentary on America’s Irony • The irony that America was a country founded on individual rights and freedoms — yet, when it was found expedient, the country often restricted the rights and freedoms of others — was fodder for commentary that often could not be delivered straight forwardly but only through the misdirection of humor
  27. 27. Commentary Humor • For African Americans, pointing out the contradictions of American life was first heard in blues songs; later, it became a staple of ―out-group‖ humor • This humor could be politically oriented (as with Dick Gregory or D.L. Hugely) or about social and personal issues (as with Dave Chappelle or Steve Harvey)
  28. 28. Advertising Example: Gillette Face-off http://www.gillette.com/en/us/mens-style/face-off-with-JB-smoove.aspx • Gillette Face Off Challenge developed for the web by Footsteps is an example of using humor to cope with an emotionally tangled situation for African American men: proper shaving techniques • The webisode puts AA men in a game show setting and, with commentary from J.B. Smoove, helps them embrace better shaving techniques
  29. 29. Physical Imitation
  30. 30. An AA Niche: Physical Imitation • Although black comedians can be animated in their delivery, physical comedy/slapstick is not a part of black humor –Perhaps because of its close association with stereotypical humor of exaggerated black physical characteristics • Having said that there are a few comics who have made physical imitation a mainstay in their acts
  31. 31. Imitation of Life • The few African American comedians who have made this type of humor the mainstay of their act use physical and vocal exaggeration to portray truths about people habits and perspectives –Arnez J and Michael Winslow are examples of such
  32. 32. • Wassup came from a short film by Charles Stone III and his friends that was picked up by DDB, the ad agency for Budweiser, for use in their True campaign • The successful approach was eventually spun out to include many ethnic groups’ interpretation of ―Wassup‖ Wassup http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJmqCKtJnxM
  33. 33. Advertising and Black Humor
  34. 34. The Purpose of Black Humor: That Black Humor Has a Purpose • The Dozens –Defining status amongst group members • Storytelling –Coping strategies with life’s situations • Commentary –Providing clarity on life’s challenges • Physical Imitation –Not take oneself too seriously
  35. 35. Humor With a Purpose Is Not Humor “Just for Fun” • Black humor is funny but it is funny with a greater purpose and cultural connection –That is why it is reality-based and not ―just for fun‖ • General Marketing advertising often uses humor for entertainment purposes – as an emotional escape/release from reality -- more so than aligning it with a higher-order cultural context • For African Americans this type of humor is pre-1964
  36. 36. Black Humor in Advertising • To do funny black advertising, the humor must place the brand within a cultural context to make a meaningful connection • While placing advertising within a cultural context might seem axiomatic to making good advertising, the point that black humor is purposeful and not ―just for fun‖ is at odds with the way in which humor is used in general market advertising
  37. 37. Black Humor in Advertising • And that is why when a black person is used in a general market commercial that is supposed to be funny, the humor, for a number of reasons, can often miss the mark with African American audiences –Because it seems silly (humor for the sake of humor) –Because it has no relevance to their world-view –Because it can be offensive to the way in which black people see themselves
  38. 38. Black Advertising • How to make good black advertising? –Make a cultural connection between the brand and an African American consumer that is reality-based and relevant • How to make good funny black advertising? –Use black humor to make a cultural connection between the brand and African American consumer that is reality-based and relevant

×