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6 tips for making funny B2B advertising

In a recent LinkedIn poll, 64% of respondents said their favorite commercials were funny. So why are so few B2B video ads funny? 

Some people are scared. Others don’t want to take the risk. But lots of marketers likely don’t know where to start.

On this episode of “Death to the Corporate Video,” Guy and Hope share six tips for using humor in B2B advertising. Read the tips below and listen to the episode to hear more.

How to use humor in B2B advertising

  1. Understand that humor is fugu — poisonous in the wrong hands.
  2. If you want to make something funny, work with people (writers, directors, agencies) who know how to do humor.
  3. Don’t try to be funny.
  4. A funny premise isn’t enough.
  5. Avoid jumping on bandwagons or memes.
  6. Keep it short.

Examples of funny B2B ads

PremiumBeat - The voice of PremiumBeat

Umault - The Stalking

Gong.io - Super Bowl commercial

Dissolve - This is a generic brand video


Guy Bauer: A lot of times I see brands making funny stuff. And you could tell that was their first idea. My sister always tells me, don't go with your first idea. So I try to always throw away the first idea except when the first idea is brilliant. 

Hope Morley: Hello, and welcome to Death to the Corporate Video, a podcast with tools and advice for how to make B2B video ads your prospects actually want to watch. I'm Hope Morley.

Guy Bauer: I'm Guy Bauer.

Hope Morley: Welcome Guy.

Guy Bauer: Welcome. You've got mail.

Hope Morley: We recently ran a poll on our LinkedIn page. Some of you may have seen it if you follow us on LinkedIn. We asked people, think about your favorite commercial of all time and let us know if it is beautiful, if it's funny or if it makes you cry.

So we wanted to see what makes people's favorite commercial their favorite. And of the poll that we got, the vast majority said funny was what their favorite commercial was. So I've got the results right here. 64% of respondents said that their favorite commercial was funny. 21% said it was beautiful and 14% said it made them cry.

So funny, kind of knocked it completely out of the park, out of those three options.

So based on those results, we wanted to do an episode of how to use humor in B2B video ads. Because humor is very hard, so people love humor. People love funny ads. They're incredibly memorable. I'm sure any listener out here can think of a funny commercial easily. That's one of their favorite things. Their favorite commercials. But it's hard. So we wanted to give some tips on how to use humor in your video ads.

Guy Bauer: Yes. And we have five of them.

Hope Morley: Six.

Guy Bauer: Six. That was not planned.

Hope Morley: That was a joke.

Guy Bauer: Yeah, no, all right. We have six tips. Should we start with tip number one?

Hope Morley: Yes, Guy, kick us off. Tip number one.

Guy Bauer: All right. So tip number one is there's a classic episode of the Simpsons. Very, very old when I was a kid, where Homer starts getting into sushi. He becomes like a sushi addict.

He's all he's there all the time. He's tried everything on the menu except for fugu and fugu comes from a blowfish. So basically a blowfish, or, well fugu comes from the blowfish and the blowfish is extremely poisonous, except for this one little part. That's like very sliver in the middle of the fish, which is delicious, but the rest of the fish is poisonous. Anyways.

So the junior chef, cuz the senior chef is making out with Miss Krabappel in a car, this was the eighties. So it was different TV. And so the junior chef very nervously, you know, prepares the fugu for Homer and anyway, hilarity ensues, but basically, tip number one is comedy is like fugu. It is extremely hard. And most of it, just like fugu, is poisonous except for little bit sliver in the middle. And so remember comedy is like fugu delicious. Great. If done properly, if done, not properly, poisonous.

Hope Morley: Yes. And that leads us into tip number two. So the way to avoid poison is to work with people who know how to do humor. And when we say poison, that sounds like pretty extreme. I think a lot of, especially B2B humor that I see, it just falls flat. It's not going to hurt your brand.

Guy Bauer: It could. 

Hope Morley: It could, but most of what I see is not, but yes, you're right. It could, it absolutely could. Most of it just falls flat and I think either the poisonous kinds of humor or the just not funny kind of humor comes from working with the wrong people. So you're not working with that master chef who knows how to get that perfect little slice that doesn't have the poison in it.

So that might be you know, working with your normal copywriters, who do most of the work for your B2B, you know, they do your website, they do your case studies. Asking them to write something funny for you is probably not going to give you the results that you want. So you really need to work with people who know how to do humor. If you want to go that route, you need to work with specialists.

Guy Bauer: And this sounds very content markety, you know, like, and we are the experts, but even if you don't use us, you know, like I promise you this isn't tip number two because we're content marketing, which we are. Full transparency. We do want you to use this, but it's okay if you don't. So, but tip number two was not done for content marketing anyway.

Oh my gosh. Tip number. It's all about like, even if you do not use an agency like Umault make sure your team has writers who have written funny stuff. The producers of the spot need to have produced funny stuff. Just because they've done a spot that had cool travel footage of the Himalayas or whatever, or drone of something does not mean, and actually most likely it means that they won't be good at comedy. Do you know the key to comedy, right? Timing. Most of the bad B2B comedy spots, we just watched one yesterday. It was delicious watching it. I loved it cuz I just love hating on stuff. But the timing was awful, awful, awful, awful, awful, terrible, terrible, terrible.

It goes back to the fugu thing. You need a master sushi chef. Again, even if you don't go out of house, even if you don't use an agency like ours, or if you use a different one, they have to have experience writing, directing, editing comedy.

Hope Morley: Editing. I think that's where the lot of the bad timing came within that example we watched.

Guy Bauer: Oh yeah, for sure. If you look at our award-winning spot, the Stalking. If you look at our award winning spot The Stalking. Actually, the first cut of that I saw, I was scared. I was like, oh, this is a dud.

This was a terrible mistake because the timing was all off and it took like a couple passes to refine the timing.

That's how important timing is in comedy is like you can have the same content. Poorly timed is terrible. Perfectly timed is amazing. It. Yeah. There's just so many things that can go wrong in comedy. Like, you know, again, not to discourage you, but you have to come with the A team.

Hope Morley: Mm-hmm

Guy Bauer: Even if you don't use us. And I promise you, this was not content marketing, which it is completely content marketing.

Hope Morley: So Guy what's tip number three, is it call Umault?

Guy Bauer: Yeah.Tip number three is no. Tip number three is, take it from I've personally made hundreds of things that have tried. That you know, are in the funny thing. And a lot of them have sucked. Totally. And I could say this, all the stuff that I've ever made that is terrible. That is not funny, I was trying really hard to be funny. All the stuff where everyone's like, that's hilarious. I was literally not trying to be funny. So tip number three is don't try to be funny, make your aim just to be casual, just to like actually, like if you're having an inside discussion with your SDRs or like your marketing team or, or you're just having beers with your friends, that kind of casual, banter or whatever, like that works.

For comedy when you try to be funny, that's when it's not funny, it's like when you see someone at a party and they're just trying too hard, it's like, Ugh, but the person who's just naturally casual and cool. They're hilarious. And so the other thing too is, trust me, everything is magnified once it's on screen as well.

So. You're just trying to be casual and if you're just like cool with just being casual and like I said, talking like how you would talk with your friends and stuff, when it's magnified on screen, it will turn into funny. So you kind of have to, it's like cooking risotto, always take the risotto off the stove right before you think it's done.

If you keep cooking your risotto and you're like, Hmm. Yeah, this is done by the time you take it off the heat it's overcooked. It's terrible. Same thing with comedy. It's like, don't try to, you gotta kind of like dial it back honestly, a little bit. And that's where the funny is. Don't try to be funny. You know what it is.

It's like the first few seasons of the office. Hilarious. Because they weren't trying, but then once Michael Scott left, those two seasons are awful. In my opinion, cuz they're trying, the premises are like really funny and like, everything is funny and it's not funny anymore. It's so weird. But they tried to be funny and which led to it not being funny.

Hope Morley: Yeah, they jump the shark a little bit.

Guy Bauer: Yeah. Cuz they were trying too hard.

Hope Morley: And that leads into tip number four of using humor in B2B ads, which is you need more than a premise. So I think it's fairly easy to come up with what we think of as a funny premise, which is a funny idea for an ad. But if you think about every bad SNL sketch you've ever seen. And I think we've all seen plenty that are just kind of duds.

A lot of them do have a funny premise. Like when you're trying to describe it to someone, it might be something you're like, oh yeah. Like they were trying to imagine what it would be like if an octopus went to the DMV and it sounds kind of funny and you're like, oh, I can see where that would go. That's a terrible example.

I'm not the funny one here, but you. They had a funny idea and an octopus going to the DMV. What's not to like, so it's a funny premise, but then they weren't able to execute it. As they started writing it in, in the SNL example, you know, the jokes weren't hitting, they found that there's actually not anything super funny about an octopus going to the DMV, but you know, it was probably Friday morning and they needed to write the sketch cuz they have to fill an hour long show. So they kept it in the show and dragged it out into a five minute thing. There's no execution. So when you're coming up with things, if you wanna do humor. You know, the premise and the concept is only like the very, very first step and you really need to execute on it.

We've had many times, just recently we were brainstorming this year's Halloween spot and we came up with something that seemed like, kind of a funny premise, but as we got into it, we were like, okay, wait, where is this going? What. What's this character gonna do? How, how are we gonna keep this connected to like the overall joke?

And as we talked about it, and Guy, as you were trying to work your way through it just kind of fell apart. It was a funny premise, but it wasn't gonna go into everything. So we had to throw it away. 

Guy Bauer: Yep. Exactly. Yeah. I mean, it has to be able to be written and then taken to the next level too. And if it, and if you can't do that with your premise, you do have to throw it away. A lot of times I see brands making funny stuff. And you could tell that was their first idea. My sister always tells me, don't go with your first idea.

So I try to always throw away the first idea except when the first idea is brilliant.

Hope Morley: Once in a while.

Guy Bauer: Yeah, yeah. But yeah. You know, people aren't digesting a premise, they're digesting a story and if you can't write your story fully, if you can't extrapolate the premise. Yeah. Throw it away. All right. Tip. What is this? Five?

Hope Morley: Five.

Guy Bauer: Okay. Tip number five. And you have another one cuz I don't have any more after this?

Hope Morley: I do.

Guy Bauer: Okay. Okay. Tip number five is, do not hop on bandwagons, memes. Don't copy popular ads. So I've seen everybody copy Mayhem, Allstate’s Mayhem. Yeah, everybody copies that and they just insert their thing.

Because, so I'll split those up. I'll parse them. I'll parse through it. When you copy a meme or when you add onto a meme or like a bandwagon on something popular, it is very popular in that moment, but as with all memes, six months later, they are ancient and I mean, ancient, ancient, like, think about if we did an ad featuring some kind of ice bucket challenge.

I mean, ice bucket challenge was what, like maybe 2017?

Hope Morley: Yeah.

Guy Bauer: Like a year later, it's irrelevant. So you have a very low shelf life. Now, if you are trying to do something for social quickly and not spend a lot of money on it, sure. You can hop on a meme.

Hope Morley: I was gonna say, you know, if you have, you have a TikTok account or Instagram, whatever, and you wanna quickly film something with an iPhone, jump on the bandwagon, get some, a little endorphin boost, quick engagement, and you don't want it to last more than a week. Do it. Great. Don't spend any money on it though.

Guy Bauer: Yeah. So anyway, for like a long term spot that needs to have, you know, a good shelf life stay away from memes, stay away from bandwagons, and then also don't copy stuff because it will, your copy will never be as good as the original. All it will do is make people realize people are very smart.

You know, it's like, you don't realize how smart everybody is. Like, any time you think you're the smartest person in the room, like you need to rethink because you are not. And they all understand like the spot we saw yesterday within the first seven seconds I was able to call out, oh yeah, they're copying the Allstate mayhem spot. Yeah. They're just adding their brand and their stuff into it and doing it in an awful way. So all it does is calls attention. Everyone understands what you're doing. So if you cannot come up with an original, funny thing to add to the, whatever the Pantheon or whatever it's called the, the, the human experience or whatever it is, if you can't come with some original, just don't do it.

You know, stay straight. Don't do it. Make sure you have an original idea.

Hope Morley: Hmm. We talk about this all the time, but really good video ads should have a long shelf life for you. Creativity should be a force multiplier that you're getting months or a year, or even more of juice out of that ad. And a funny ad can really carry you for a long time. So if you're copying somebody else, copying a meme or jumping on a trend, you're not gonna get that shelf life that you want out of a really great spot.

Guy Bauer: Yeah, it's not gonna be relevant enough to get the ROI off of your investment. You know, you need to be able to scale the ad, keep it out there for a long time to eventually make the ad not only pay for itself, but then become profitable. So, yeah, memes. Not good. Again, short term social. Sure. But not for those big, big ads that, you know, those brand building ads. What is tip number six?

Hope Morley: Our final tip. Keep it short. That's the final tip. Don't be afraid to keep it short and sweet. You know, we were talking about how you need more than a premise. You need to execute things. Sometimes when you start writing it, you can find that this is gonna be really funny for 20 seconds. And that's okay.

We have some really successful spots that we've done that are 18, 20, less than 30 seconds. They perform very well for us. They don't have any fluff. There's no reason to stretch something into 90 seconds. Like you don't have time to fill. You're not SNL. You don't have to make an hour show every week.

So if you come up with something and you write it and it's really funny and you time it out and it's 20 seconds, great. Make something that's 20 seconds. That's also great for sponsored content, cuz nobody cares about things that are longer. I worry that we, especially in B2B, that people are still recovering from years of corporate video.

That for some reason, someone decided that 90 seconds was how long video should be like 10 years ago. And we haven't gotten over this idea that you need to have a 90 second video. I, we keep hating on this example that we saw yesterday and we're not gonna share it cause we don't wanna shame the brand or anything, but it was a 90 second spot and it was so long and Guy was talking about the timing not being good. It just kept dragging through. And you're like, why does this need to be so long? Maybe if they had done something that was 30 seconds, they could have recovered what they had put together. But, you know, we only kept watching it because we were player hating.

Guy Bauer: Yeah, it's fun to watch when you're us. Exactly what you say. I don't really have anything to add. I will say this too, you always want the audience wanting more, so don't overstay your welcome. That's why I like get it. You got it's the Costanza rule, you know, as soon as you have a laugh, get out of the room, just like all goodbye. You just gotta get out of there as, you know, leave them wanting more. It is comedy. So. My fundamental belief is that comedy and magic are the root of all entertainment. Get in, get out, make people laugh, leave them wanting more.

It's the fundamentals of show business. Yeah. Shorter is always better. I'd rather you make me laugh for 20 seconds than. Make me bored for 40 just make me laugh for 20. Just cut. No, there's no, there's no trophy for a longer spot. A click is a click, you know, once you get the click, you win, so you don't need to make it so long.

Hope Morley: Yeah. If it's long people bounce, you know, if something is not entertaining you. And you look and you see that there's still 65 seconds left. Like I'm not gonna sit there and be like, maybe this will come back around.

Guy Bauer: Right. 

Hope Morley: You're just gonna lose everybody.

Guy Bauer: Yep. Cool. All right. Let's review the six tips. So tip number one is comedy is fugu. Understand that you're playing with fugu, respect it, understand the danger you're headed for. It's delicious if done right. But could be poisonous if done wrong. Comedy is like fugu.

Hope Morley: Tip two, work with people who know how to do humor and know how to handle the dangerous waters you're potentially getting yourself into.

Guy Bauer: Tip number three is don't try to be funny. Just try to be casual. Try to be like, just like how you talk with your friends or your coworkers. That's funny enough. Everything is magnified. Once it's on screen, don't try to be funny.

Hope Morley: Tip number four, you need more than a premise. So if you're trying to write something and it's not coming together, it's time to move on to a new idea.

Guy Bauer: Tip number five is don't hop on bandwagons on memes. Don't copy popular ads. You need to do something original where you're adding to the aggregate comedy material. I don't know where you're adding to the, what is it? What is the thing like the library?

Hope Morley: Literary canon.

Guy Bauer: Yes, the canon. Yes. That. What she said. Don't do don't do it unless it's truly original. 

Hope Morley: And tip six. Keep it short.

Guy Bauer: I see what you did there. Tip six. Is it is itself short,

Hope Morley: Yeah. See it's funny when you point it out too. It's like explaining a joke.

Guy Bauer: Oh, all my kids explain every single joke. And that's the funniest part of their jokes when they explain.

Hope Morley: I love when kids start to get, they understand the structure of jokes, but they're not funny yet. So they'll set do like a question and an answer, but it's just completely nonsensical or it's just like a straight answer to a question.

Guy Bauer: Yeah. Marielle

Hope Morley: like, oh, it's so close.

Guy Bauer: my younger one has like a joke, like what do you call a cow's mom, a moo-er.

Hope Morley: Uh huh.

Guy Bauer: And she's like, get it cuz a cow goes moo and it's her mother! That in itself is hilarious. Yes. Thanks for listening to this. Totally not content marketing episode

Hope Morley: Yeah, we have no skin in the game for trying to help people do funny. We don't know anybody who knows how to do humor. You know, we don't look at our YouTube. Don't look at our LinkedIn and see how, you know, not funny, everything is.

Guy Bauer: There you go. Just, don't go to umault.com U M A U L T.com. Just do not go to there, cuz this is not content marketing. We don't care. We have, we are literally just trying to help you, okay? We're just trying to help.

Hope Morley: It's out of the goodness of our souls.

Guy Bauer: Like this. Yeah. Like this is a workday and we're like, I was like, Hey, Hope, you know, what would be good? Let's not like produce revenue for this agency. That's the opposite of what our values. I don't know why this happened to Elizabeth Holmes.

Hope Morley: Is that what that voice is? I thought it was just like your LinkedIn influencer voice.

Guy Bauer: Our purpose. But yeah, this has not been content marketing at all, and we appreciate you listening. We're gonna go back to not making any money for our agency and just right now, helpful tips.

Hope Morley: Helpful tips. 

Guy Bauer: Don't cut this. This is funny. Don't cut this.

Hope Morley: This is funny people. Thanks for listening today. We hope that you found these tips helpful and in no way are, and, and you know what? I actually, I hope that you're not discouraged from doing humor in any way. I don't wanna scare people off from it because I love seeing B2B brands doing humor, and when they do it well, it's just great.

And I will, I will put a couple examples of funny B2B spots, not just made by us in the show notes. Cause I can think of a couple. We will throw some in some other examples that we did not do we'll throw some in that we did do, but we'll throw some other ones in that we've seen. So you can see some examples of B2B brands doing this well, because we love to see it.

Guy Bauer: Yeah. And it's very effective when done right. Extremely effective. Cool. All right. Well, thanks for listening.

Hope Morley: Thanks for listening. You can find us across the internet at Umault. That's U M A U LT and visit our website umault.com. Follow us on LinkedIn so next time that we have a poll about your favorite commercial, you can participate in it.

Guy Bauer: Yep. Don't even consider working with us either.

Hope Morley: No, there's no contact information on our website.

There's no DMs through social. You can't reach us.

Guy Bauer: Files done.





Picture of Guy bauer, founder of umault

Guy has been making commercial videos for over 20 years and is the author of “Death to the Corporate Video: A Modern Approach that Works.” He started the agency in 2010 after a decade of working in TV, film and radio. He’s been losing hair and gaining weight ever since.

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