Share

I've taken the liberty of compiling a list of my favourite funny ads. Well, the ones I can recall anyway, which I suppose is testament in its own right to their credentials as adverts 

Getting it down to 10, and not including Heineken, Campari, PlayStation, Lynx, or Nike, to name a few, was tough. If I made the list 10 times, it would be different every time, but I wanted to be sure to include some ads other than the usual suspects. Hopefully, no-one will have seen all of them. 

Great humour is a sure-fire attractor that gives the ad the opportunity to engage the consumer long enough to sell to them.

Having sought these ads out and evaluated why I find them funny, I've concluded that although I have a relatively dark sense of humour, the common thread is a self-effacing wit. Nothing is amusing in a sycophantic ad. Great humour is a sure-fire attractor that gives the ad the opportunity to engage the consumer long enough to sell to them.

Attract. Engage. Reward; the basic rules of advertising never change. That's why the humour must be synonymous with the product or, more accurately, the human behaviour around it.    

Click here to read the full interview with Pete Cain.

My top 10 favourite funny ads (today, at least)

1. Alka Seltza Lifeboat

This ad made me laugh out loud when I first saw it. The proposition is the end line, and it's perfectly executed. A slow, quiet film in the middle of a busy ad break often stands out like a donkey's dick.

Alka Seltzer – Alka Seltzer: Lifeboat

Credits
powered by Source

Unlock full credits and more with a Source membership.

Credits
powered by Source
Credits powered by Source

2. Kayak.com Brain Surgery

Another laugh-out-louder. Most all of the ads in the Kayak campaign are exceptionally funny, but this one really hits the funny nerve. The comedy timing of the patient is impeccable. 

Kayak – Kayak: Brain Surgeon

Credits
powered by Source

Unlock full credits and more with a Source membership.

Credits
powered by Source
Show full credits
Hide full credits
Credits powered by Source

3. Fed-Ex Castaway

Funny as fuck! A good test for a funny ad is to imagine it in a sketch show. If it's funnier as an ad because of the product, then I consider it great. The product must be central to the comedy. The real challenge here was writing the woman's dialogue. Very difficult to get that right. She delivered it perfectly, as did the Fed-Ex guy.


4. Skittles Taste the Rainbow (any and all)

Touch the laughter. Taste the laughter. Imagine getting paid to think of these all day. Dream the perfect job. Live the perfect job.

Skittles – Skittles: Umbilical Cord

Credits
powered by Source

Unlock full credits and more with a Source membership.

Credits powered by Source

5. Old Spice The Man Your Man Could Smell Like (case study) 

I put the case study in because it's the perfect example of a brilliant campaign being born out of the research. Understanding the buying pattern opened the door to the idea. Simply brilliant.  

6. Outpost.com Cannon; Forehead; Band

Surely, the bravest client ever! No one forgot their name, so mission accomplished there. I just wonder how well it worked in terms of sales figures. 

Credits
View the full credits on

Outpost.com – Outpost.com: Cannon, Forehead

Credits
View the full credits on

Outpost.com – Band

7. Hamlet Photo Booth

I grew up watching this wonderful campaign. I'm fond of all of them. Happiness was seeing a new one. The comedy timing in Photo Booth was perfection itself. I'd like to know how many takes it took to get right... answers on a postcard. 

Hamlet – Photo Booth

Credits
powered by Source

Unlock full credits and more with a Source membership.

Credits
powered by Source
Show full credits
Hide full credits
Credits powered by Source

8. John West Salmon Bear

Written by the late, great Paul Silburn. He was an exceptionally funny ad writer.

John West Salmon – John West Salmon: Bear

Credits
powered by Source

Unlock full credits and more with a Source membership.

Credits
powered by Source
Show full credits
Hide full credits
Credits powered by Source

9. Tide It's A Tide Ad (case study) 

In my book, this is the greatest ad of all time. It's inherently funny too. We are in the business of putting products at the top of people's minds. This one took up a whole aisle. It made consumers think about the product while they were watching ads for entirely different products. Now, that’s a dirty trick, and they got clean away with it. Genius.

10. John Webster's work

I could have filled this list with John Webster's work. He is the grandmaster of funny British advertising, from the Smash Martians and Humphrey, the Unigate milk addict, to John Smith's and the Hofmietser bear. John wrote the ad break to the lives of the nation across three decades. He had the skills of a great sitcom writer,  able to isolate the right human characteristics to show off the product in the best and funniest way. The word legend is bandied about all too cheaply these days, particularly in advertising, but John is a genuine, proper, bonafide legendary, legend.

Credits
View the full credits on

Smash – Smash: Martians

Credits
View the full credits on

John Smith's – Dog Tricks

Credits
View the full credits on

Cresta – Cresta: Elvis

Three favourite funny ads currently running

1. Halo Top Because Adults Need a Lot of Ice-Cream 

Again, the proposition is the end line, nothing wrong with that when it's as pure and creamy as this one. It's beautifully written too. Such acerbic wit must be applauded.

Credits
View the full credits on

Halo Top Creamery – Swiping

Credits
View the full credits on

Halo Top Creamery – Mortgage

Credits
View the full credits on

Halo Top Creamery – Love

2. Yorkshire Tea Induction

I love this campaign. I use it to explain to my students at the SCA how, in the right hands, a seemly plain proposition, 'We do everything proper', can be turned into brilliant work. It still amazes me that it's warm enough in Yorkshire to grow tea leaves. 

Yorkshire Tea – Induction

Credits
powered by Source

Unlock full credits and more with a Source membership.

Credits
powered by Source
Show full credits
Hide full credits
Credits powered by Source

3. Moneysupermarket Money Calm Bull

Ok, they’ve stretched the strategy a bit, but they’ve executed this really well, with the funniest use of a bull in a china shop ever. It’s a cracker.

MoneySuperMarket – The Money Calm Bull

Credits
powered by Source

Unlock full credits and more with a Source membership.

Credits
powered by Source
Show full credits
Hide full credits
Credits powered by Source

1. Go Compare When It Matters

Droga 5 is like a funny friend. They always make me laugh, and this campaign is no exception. Let's deconstruct it. First, they strip the message down to one simple, salient point. They then take the irritating brand ambassador and, instead of telling the client to ditch him, they stick him in a ditch via a car crash. Now, that’s both unexpected and hilariously good advertising.

GoCompare – Tree

Credits
powered by Source

Unlock full credits and more with a Source membership.

Credits
powered by Source
Show full credits
Hide full credits
Credits powered by Source

Bonus ad; my favourite funny endline

Sekonda Backslap 

Sekonda – Sekonda: Backslap

Credits
powered by Source

Unlock full credits and more with a Source membership.

Credits
powered by Source
Show full credits
Hide full credits
Credits powered by Source

Click here to read the full interview with Pete Cain.

Share