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How to Master the Art of Self-Deprecating Humour in Advertising

Updated: Feb 7

Anastasia Chirkova is the author of the article titled How to master the art of self0deprecating humour in advertising

Author: Anastasia Chirkova

Publication date: 09.08.2023

In the realm of luxury advertising, brands strive to stand out, engaging their audiences with innovative and memorable campaigns. One such tactic gaining traction is the use of self-deprecating humour.

Setting the Stage: Humour in Switzerland Tourism's “No Drama” Advertising

The short film “No Drama” from Switzerland Tourism masterfully deploys self-deprecating humour in advertising. Instead of the usual idyllic portrayal of destinations, this campaign plays on Switzerland's stereotype as a serene and somewhat eventless place. In particular, the campaign strikes an engaging balance between showcasing the tranquil allure of Switzerland. It amusingly acknowledges its reputation as 'uneventful'. Thus, it becomes charming, funny, and memorable.

Swiss tourism humour advertising

Moreover, they've used famous ambassadors, like tennis player Roger Federer and “The Daily Show” runner Trevor Noah. They intended to add a personal touch to their advertising campaigns appealing to a broad audience. Rather than shying away from Switzerland's reputation as a place where “nothing happens”, the film embraces it with tongue-in-cheek humour. Therefore, it created an advertisement that's charming, funny, and memorable.

Humor in Hospitality advertising: Key aspects of Virgin Hotels' strategy

Virgin Hotels, part of Sir Richard Branson's global Virgin Group. The group made a splash in the hospitality industry with their self-deprecating humour in an advertising campaign titled "Branson's First Time". The campaign humorously references Sir Richard Branson's venture into the hospitality industry as his 'first time'. So, it is drawing parallels to a somewhat awkward, yet exciting, personal first-time experience.

Sir Richard Branson used humour in ads

Furthermore, the campaign features a video with Branson himself, stumbling through hotel lingo and grappling with industry norms. Consequently, it resulted in a refreshingly human, approachable face to the brand. What’s more, the strategy creates a compelling narrative that humorously acknowledges the challenges of entering a new industry. Apart from that, it simultaneously highlights Virgin Hotels' commitment to redefining industry standards.

Humorously acknowledging the brand's newcomer status in the hospitality industry.

● Leveraging the charisma and personality of the brand's founder, Richard Branson, to add a personal touch to the humour.

● Effectively using this humour to underscore the brand's commitment to innovation and customer-centric services

More to the humor in luxury advertising: Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts

Four Seasons luxury advertising incorporated humour

Their hypothetical campaign, "Luxury is Our Love Language" uses a mix of sophistication and light-hearted humor. In particular, it positions luxury as a 'love language' that the brand is fluent in. For example, AdIllustrating recreations of actual events where Four Seasons' personnel exceeded expectations to astound and please their guests

As stated by the Four Seasons' principal commercial executive, the goal of the initiative is to portray the brand as a “brand of luxury with genuine heart”. Therefore, the concept includes amusing scenarios showcasing the lengths the brand goes to provide luxurious experiences. As a result, an approachable, human touch is added to the Four Seasons' prestigious image.

The Allure of Self-Mockery at Kering: Gucci's Stylish Humor

self-deprecating advertising in Gucci

Fashion giant Gucci has also used self-deprecating humor to a winning effect.

In its 2017 campaign titled "Gucci and Beyond", Gucci used quirky, kitschy elements to showcase its Autumn/Winter collection. The campaign video was inspired by 1950s and 60s sci-fi, particularly Star Trek, complete with teleportation scenes, alien creatures, and outlandish sets. As a result, the combination of high fashion and vintage sci-fi kitsch created a memorable, endearing advertising campaign.

This way, it exhibited Gucci’s capability to innovate while not taking itself too seriously. Therefore, the humorous and unexpected creative direction was a hit, garnering positive reactions from audiences. In other words, it demonstrated how luxury brands could leverage humor.

Luxury Humor Missteps: Dolce & Gabbana

humour missteps in DG ads

However, not all luxury brands have achieved success with self-deprecating humor. Both Dolce & Gabbana provide examples of how this strategy can miss the mark.

Dolce & Gabbana's 2018 ad campaign showed a Chinese model struggling to eat pizza with chopsticks. However, it was criticized as culturally insensitive, leading to a significant backlash. The attempt at humor ended up being offensive, highlighting the importance of cultural sensitivity in global advertising campaigns.

Navigating the Delicate Balance

When artfully deployed, this strategy can humanize luxury brands without diluting the brand's exclusive image. This makes them more approachable while still maintaining their aura of sophistication. As discussed, the above-mentioned representatives maintained their sophisticated appeal while engaging audiences through humor. However, it requires careful consideration of brand image, cultural nuances, and audience perception. This will ensure the humor advertising enhances the brand rather than diminishes it.


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