Brilliant, Creepy, and Brilliant Advertising (Old Spice)

Weird is becoming, if not is, the new “norm.” A constant desire exists by some people to gain attention, and they use many sites including YouTube and other social media sites to show off their weirdness. This is normal, and it often makes us laugh.

With the constant bombardment of information and desire by others to have our attention, it can be difficult to distract us, the modern, technology driven and distracted human. Sometimes people or businesses need to push it a little closer to the edge of acceptable to get us to listen.

This edge came to mind after I read an article on CNN and another on USA Today questioning the weirdness of an Old Spice advertisement. The video advertisement has several overly attached mothers following their sons around in secret, creepy, and hilarious ways because they are concerned about their lives since discovering the product. While some on the internet and in the news seem to think this is weird, I follow those who believe it to be brilliant and hilarious. The reason why I think it is funny? Because weird and creep factor are important in a joke.

Humor can grab us.

Many theories exist on the development of a joke. Thomas Schultz and Jerry Suls had a theory they believed explained some of the nuts and bolts in a joke. Their theory, Incongruity Theory, explained that it was the “surprise” and unexpected ending to a joke which adds to the joke. They believed it was the “resolution of incongruity” which people enjoy in humor (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/humor/).

Other people think of it differently. In 2011, Wired magazine dedicated an issue to humor. In it, several thoughts about humor were explained. One example from it was a theory by Peter McGraw. He believes he has explained humor with Benign Violation Theory. What people fine funny he described is a “perceived violation” of some “norm” to a group which is of no threat or benign to the audience. This violation would be unexpected or a surprise, but because of the person telling the joke or the context, it is accepted as a joke.  (Of course, more on this and other humor related nuts and bolts can be found in the May 2011 edition of Wired)

The unexpected is sometimes what makes a joke funny. As in the advertisement, I did not expect some of what happened with the creepy, overly-attached mothers following their sons. Comedy seems to be common in advertising. Comedy is right up there with sex, children, and puppies for a way to gain my attention, but these are not to be all in one place. If all in one commercial, that may be considered a “violation” under McGraw’s theory. Then again, one joke which an entire film was made about, did include these topics. The joke and film was called  “The Artistocrats.”  It is sick, twisted, and it is funny for some people. If you want to know more about a person or comedian, challenge them to tell this joke or watch as some of the top comedians tell the joke in the film.

It is understandable to see the creep factor in the Old Spice advertisement. This unexpected part of the advertisement, the creepiness, is how it got the attention of internet followers and news sites. People talking about a product is exactly why this type of advertising works. That is what companies want. They want people talking about their advertisements and their products, and it is okay for a little creepy or weird humor as long as no serious lines are crossed.

The love of advertising and the genius behind rhetoric is my passion. This gets me going. I laughed at it. I may even buy some Old Spice. I do not know. So, advertisers, bring it on. Show me the unexpected. Try, if you dare, to creep me out. Try to sell it to me. Give me the creeps.

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