I'm in a radio session today, working on a funny* spot. The script was funny when I wrote it, but by the time I get to the studio, I've rewritten it dozens of times. I've read it dozens of times and presented it maybe a half dozen. Then the talent reads it a few dozen more. And after awhile, I often find myself in that place where I'm going "Wait, is this really funny?"
Unless you're in a joke-writing class, analyzing humor can be counterproductive. If you have to explain why something's funny, it's not. Funny just is. Humor is based on surprise, so after the surprise has worn off, it's hard to keep that sense of what's funny. Because of that, the best gauge of whether or not something is funny is usually your first gut reaction.** Trust your gut. And when you present it and people laugh, point that out to them if they come back later and say it's not funny. When you hear 50 takes and one of them makes you snort in laughter, note that.
Humor can be structured and built up, and a script might go through months of painstaking crafting and revision. But you'll know if it's funny in about a half second.
*Yes, funny is subjective. For the sake of this post, though, pretend I'm talking about an idea that is indeed "funny."
**This is different from late-night slap-happiness funny--if it's not still funny in the morning, it's probably truly not funny).
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a drummer in a band.
Whenever we'd go to the music store, I'd pick up all the Zildjian, Tama and Pearl catalogs I could. They'd always feature photos of their spokesdrummers, and out of 20 or 30 per catalogue, I'd usually only know three or four.
So I'd try to figure out who these other drummers were and why they were supposed to be good. And that exposed me to a lot of new music I would never have discovered on my own.
Instead of thinking Alex Van Halen and Phil Collins were the uncontested best in the world, I learned about the guys in this video:
I bring this up for two reasons:
- This video is awesome and should be viewed frequently and with great enthusiasm. Steve Gadd knows how to use the cowbell.
- Being a wannabe rock drummer isn't too different from being an advertising student. You don't have Zildjian catalogs, but you do have the annuals, and sites like Creativity. Everyone knows the Goodbys, Wiedens and Boguskys. But there are tons of lesser-known creatives who have just as much talent, if not more. The best thing you can do is seek them out in the annuals, and seek them out when it comes time to look for work.
Check out this short video on why Subway's Jared story was so much more impactful than their previous campaign, "7 under 6." It's why ad schools have classes that focus on storytelling. And the point he makes about the message being concrete, unexpected, and emotional is true of any good campaign or execution.
More on surprise in an upcoming post.
-The Art of Presenting
by Peter Coughter, Jr.
Some other great tips on presenting can be found in his article here.
It can't just be different for different's sake. You've got to back it up with the brilliance. So what's the difference between brilliant creative and being different? It's got to have that "I've never seen that before" feel. Look at the Skittles work. Completely different than anything in the candy category. Look at the Space Chair work from Toshiba. Or the We Choose the Moon site from Martin. Or Whopper Freakout. Not just brilliant creative, but very different from anything that came before.