Three Creative Directors Walk Into the Gutter Bar… Where’s the Comic Relief?

A creative director for an ad agency, a PR firm and a digital shop all walk into the Gutter Bar in Cannes. Over cocktails, together, they mastermind a campaign of such noble purpose and seriousness, it’s a lock to win a Cannes Lion award in 2018.

And you were hoping for a humorous punchline?

Actually, these days we’re all looking for some comic relief, so how come most of the marketing campaigns predicted to win Cannes Lions next week are SO NOT amusing?

Fearless Girl is inspiring, but no chuckling in her presence please. Amnesty International’s The Refugee Nation beautifully recognized millions of displaced people during the Olympics. Powerful yes, lighthearted no. No laugh track for Meet Graham, a gruesome sculpture that gets you thinking about surviving a car crash. And the very smart, very somber Zero Minutes of Fame flips the media focus of gun violence from the shooters to the victims.

We’re awash in cause marketing when a bit of comical marketing is exactly what could lighten our moods, get us to pay attention and consider the messages flooding our social feeds.

In fact, Netflix has seen enough demand for laughter in 2017 to release a stand-up comedy special every week this year; Saturday Night Live is smoking hot with its laugh-out-loud political satire, and late night funnymen and women like Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah, John Oliver and James Corden are having banner years lampooning world affairs.

In his Ted Talk, Dan Dennett, an American philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist, explains that people are attracted to cute, sexy, sweet and… funny because evolution wired us to search and respond to these four triggers.

Funny sells because we are biologically drawn to humorous people and content.

Believing levity is engaging, memorable, and shareable, we took a fresh or humorous tact on behalf of many of our clients this year. For Cheetos (client: Frito-Lay with Goodby Silverstein), for instance, we challenged fans to share the snack pieces they thought bore a resemblance to someone famous or oddly familiar and curated then into a Cheetos Museum online  and museum exhibit at New York’s Grand Central Station.

So I’m glad to see that the Cannes Festival planners put several sessions on the program this year to inspire a bit of lightheartedness in our work.

In “Can Data Make You Funnier,” creatives will explore the role of data in comedy and examine the ways brands might use it to create entertaining and engaging content that makes people laugh and buy.

On the Cannes Lions Health stage, Andrew MacKenzie, the CMO of UnitedHealthcare, will be telling the story of selling a “laugh-out-loud funny” idea within his data-driven organization by combining the emotional and the rational in a session called “Selling Humour in Health: A Story of Data and Emotion.”

And “How to Write Funny for Lazy People” will share techniques that comedians use when they write, apparently even when they’re burnt out.

So, back to those creative directors in the Gutter Bar. Kudos for cooking up ideas for addressing society’s worst problems. I’m proud of our industry’s contribution to making a positive difference. But while we’re at it, let’s not forget that in the darkest of times, it’s laughter that brings us back to the light.

Follow @KetchumPR throughout the festival and join the conversation on our #InspiredbyCannes social hub!