By Ranch Hand

clown-362155_1280Interesting times, these. Most of us are in, or have been in, or share space and time with someone who is in, therapy. We all are in touch with our inner selves in a way no generations could boast of before. And we spend much of our time in therapy confronting our fears. Very powerful emotions, these fears. The psychological professionals have named most of them for us, like arachnophobia, agoraphobia, claustrophobia, pteromerhanophobia. That last one,by the way, is pretty common – it’s fear of flying.

Here’s one that puzzles me a little– coulrophobia. The fear of clowns. Now, I never want to be one to pooh ­pooh other people’s phobias. I have a couple of doozies of my own. And the word coulrophobia comes from the Greek meaning fear of stilt­walkers. I can definitely understand being afraid of those guys. They could mow you over with their giant sticks, or, worst case, make a major misstep and fall right on you. Clowns, well, I guess there are those who cannot cope with the fright wig and oversized feet. Who shudder at the sight of baggy pants and bilious yellow jumpsuits. Me, I’m a clown person, but I totally respect those who steer clear of the circus lest someone with a bulbous red schnozz is lying in wait with a seltzer bottle.

I gotta say, though, there is one I really can’t come to grips with: The phobia against using humor in radio advertising.

Yep. The fear of the funny.

I don’t know that the APA has officially named this one yet, but it is out there. The belief that during in this precious time allotted to us on the air, we aren’t allowed to make the listener laugh. Or even chuckle to themselves. And I do recognize that many among us are not hesitant to employ humors ourselves, but find ourselves bucking clients who take themselves waaaaay too seriously. Never want to sacrifice a serious copy point for a good guffaw. I say, it’s time to take a stand.

Face down those fears and funny up.

I came to radio from improv, and was so delighted to find this medium which would incorporate all the things I loved – writing, performing, making people think and laugh. Humor sells. Some statistics say as high as 69% of the most impactful advertising employs humor. Sixty ­nine percent! Somewhat lower in Europe. Go figure. Now, yes, we know the arguments. Humor can actually undercut the brand message, can make the listener smile but not be motivated to buy, yada yada yada. So can inorganic, badly positioned, off target serious advertising. And apparently that fails at a higher rate.

Don’t be afraid of being funny. Be afraid of being dull and overlooked.

All by itself, humor is a very powerful emotion, and it elicits other powerful emotional responses. Which is, after all, the aim of good advertising. Oh, and if anyone comes up with a good ­phobia name for this fear­of­humor­in­spots condition, please let us know. We’ll pass it along to the shrinks.


Millward Brown – Does Humor Make Ads More Effective?

Millward Brown – Should I Use Humor in Advertising? – How to Use Humor in Advertising


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