29 Jan

New life into old jokes

You’ll see, within comedy – particularly sitcoms – that many jokes repeat themselves, or they’ll be a variation of an old joke. There have, for example, been attempts to re-enact the classic Del Boy fall in various programmes other than Only Fools and Horses.

This can be slightly irritating, particularly if you recall the original version of the joke or note that it’s been done many times in the past.

However, in advertising, if you attach what appears to be an old, well-worn joke to a relevant message, it can actually breathe new life into it, and make the brand seem quite smart.

The idea of using mix-ups based on not seeing something properly, or having poor eyesight, is not new. It’s also a bloody obvious route for a brand of opticians to take… but the Specsavers ads are funny and well known. In fact, you’ll even hear people shout ‘should’ve gone to Specsavers’ as a common phrase, when someone does/wears something stupid.
Here’s one of my favourites from the Specsavers campaign:

The current Tom Tom radio ads are based on awkward scenarios in confined spaces (specifically, in the car), that you want to get out of, quickly. The situations aren’t new, in comedy terms, but they are neatly bolted down by the message ‘quicker journeys when you need them’.
For example – the sample below – it’s not a new joke for someone to accidentally say someone’s pregnant when they’re actually just a bit fat. It’s the overall idea behind the ads, and the endline, which breathes new life into the joke:

Just to finish off, here’s one of my favourite ads ever: it’s so simple in what it’s trying to say and how it says it … and it does so with humour.
One of the oldest comedy tricks in the book has to be a misunderstanding based on people speaking different languages (Manuel, from Fawlty Towers, is an obvious example). It’s not new to create a comedy scenario from this, but this advert for Berlitz language school is – in my opinion – fantastic. It makes me laugh every time. Here goes:

So, there you have it – good advertising can breathe new life into old jokes.

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