You know what’s funny? Watching someone get punched in the face.
You know what’s even funnier? Watching an old lady get tackled and thrown in a puddle of mud by a full grown man.
Oh, you aren’t laughing? Maybe you have to see it:
Comedy in commercials is nothing new. Way back in 1993, Alden, Hoyer and Lee approximated that one in five ads attempted to use humor (Brown, Bradbury & Pope, 2010, p. 50). On top of the humor, many ads also incorporate violence in an attempt to increase consumer engagement.
And if that’s the way you choose to go, well, go big or go home.
In 2010, when Brown, Bradbury & Pope conducted their study on violence in comedy, they measured to factors. The first was how intense the violence was. (Did someone get smacked in the face? Or was he thrown out a window?) The second was how severe the consequences of the violence were. (Did she get up after being thrown out a window? Or end up in a full body cast in the hospital?)
What they found was that consumers seemed to prefer a high level of violence intensity and consequence severity.
In fact, when the violence intensity and consequence severity levels were high, consumers had a higher level of brand involvement, they had a more favorable view of the advertisement, and they were more likely to pass the advertisement on to a third party (p. 62).
So, the more violent, the better, right?
I guess it depends on who you ask. In 2009, Fanti, Vanman, Henrich, & Avraamides conducted a study on peoples’ desensitization to media violence. They introduce the subject by discussing how researchers have long assumed that a person may become desensitized to violence after repeated exposure over a long period of time. But what about short term desensitization? Could we become less sensitive to violent acts in an afternoon? The researchers showed a group of college students 9 violent movie clips and 9 comedic movie clips in alternating order. Each movie clip was 2-minutes long , and there was a 3-minute long break in between each clip (p. 181).
In the beginning, students enjoyed the violent scenes less and felt worse for the victims. By the end of the 18 clips, participants reported having less sympathy for the victims and enjoying the violence more (p. 185).
So yes, after watching just 18 minutes worth of violent footage, the viewer becomes more desensitized to violence.
So, does that mean that in order to have effective advertisements, brands will just keep pushing the envelope and depicting more and more violent acts in a comedic manner?
It’s always possible. But even the minds behind the comedic violence study don’t think so. They think eventually violence will be so severe, viewers won’t find it funny anymore, and they will be turned off to the brand and the commercial (Brown, Bradbury & Pope , 2010, p. 56). Only time and progressively more violent commercials will tell.
Brown, Mark R., Bhadbury, Roop K., & Pope, Nigel Kl. L1. (Spring 2010). The Impact of Comedic Violence on Viral Advertising Effectiveness. Journal of Advertising, 39(1), 49- 65.
Fanti, Kostat A., Vanman, Eric, Henrich, Christopher C., Avraamides, Marios N. Desensitization to Media Violence Over a Short Period of Time. Aggressive Behavior, 35,179-187.