Funny Business

No ifs, ands or buts: playful visuals, paired with copy promoting your selling points, add up to a standout advertisement.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the October 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

A toothy smile from a stock photo model doesn't always cut it these days when you're looking to add some visual interest to your advertising. With the exception of promotions for cosmetics, facial plastic surgery and ads for teeth whiteners, pretty faces are getting passé, and other body parts are ready for their close-ups.

That's the thinking behind the ad shown here, developed for Kaiser Permanente, the large HMO, by one of its ad agencies, Rapp Collins Worldwide. This ad gets an A+ in my book for its peekaboo image of an open-gowned hospital patient-one that gives new meaning to the phrase "covering your butt." In this case, it humorously complements the headline "Just a reminder, we're terrific at covering what Medicare doesn't." The ad talks about the HMO's Senior Advantage program, which supplements coverage for care that Medicare doesn't fully pay for. (This ad is the front of a newspaper insert, with the the backside showing the patient frontally with a continuation of the message.)

So how might you use a bit of visual humor distinctively to promote your business? As a plumbing contractor, might you create an ad showing a technician's backside cleavage as he's bending over to fix a leak? I would. And perhaps try this for the headline: "Please, no cracks about our 24/7 emergency leak service. We'll be there when you need us."

Of course, there are many forms of visual humor for ads. The idea is to juxtapose an unexpected image with your headline while still maintaining relevance. If you operate a chain of pizza kitchens, you might playfully ding rivals with an ad showing an overhead shot of one of those mysterious crop circles with pizza ingredients on it. Maybe the headline would read "If other 'large' pizzas never seem large enough, you need to try Rocco's large."

What if you own several car dealerships and want to set your ads apart from others? A lot has been tried in this area, including the dealer who declared he'd "eat a bug" if you could find lower prices than his. But what about engaging a good cartoonist to draw a scene in which a couple is talking to a salesperson next to a used car in a competitor's lot? The caption might read "We don't care if your undercoating is made with organic avocados. Can you beat George Wagner's price?"

You get the idea. A little bit of original visual humor can go a long way to help you stand out from the pack.

Jerry Fisher is a freelance advertising copywriter and author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising.

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