Do funny or entertaining ads influence our behaviours?

People often remember funny or entertaining ads. However, this doesn't mean that these ads are effective. If the ad's humour relates to gloating (joking/laughing about others' misfortune), it activates negative emotions and motivating people to avoid the shown behaviour. Therefore, for a humorous ad to be effective, you need to ensure that the humour has a purpose - after the joke, a solution is offered which activates positive emotions. Read more below.

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Use humour for a specific purpose

Neuromarketing learning 3 - Specsavers Beach volleybal meeuwYou probably know them: funny or entertaining ads. Often, these ads are funny or entertaining due to some gloating in the scenes. Gloating is a popular form of humour. The failure and misfortune of others attracts our attention and makes us laugh.

That's why many ads use it, but do these ads cause a change in behaviour, such as an increase in purchase intention? 

The use of gloating in ads

Spider plot effectiviteit vs likability

We have developed a benchmark for effective ads by testing Effie awards commercials (commercials that have produced significant behavioural changes).

Test participants viewed these ads in a MRI scanner while we measures their brain responses - the place where advertising really works, deep in the brain.

We also tested the effectiveness of several funny and/or entertaining ads (ads that have won a Gouden Loekie, the Dutch award for the funniest ads). We plotted both results in the spider plot above.

Effective ads mainly activate positive emotions and few negative emotions (see blue line). Fun and/or entertaining ads mainly activate negative emotions (see green line).

Therefore, funny and/or entertaining ads mainly activate negative brain responses, such as Danger, Anger, Fear or Disgust: the brain cannot ignore what it sees and reacts automatically.

Evoking negative emotions in an ad can work, but the negative must be surpassed by the positive - like the presentation of a  solution (see learning 2).

Else, you may have a funny ad, but brain responses such as Danger, Fear, Anger or Disgust will act as negative reinforcers: viewers will avoid the associated behaviour and your ad won't motivate the desired behaviour.


Humour, also in the form of gloating, can work when it serves a purpose. It is insufficient for the joke to be remembered, it's important that the ad ends with sufficient positive emotions to activate behavioural change.

Go to the next learning.

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