Bob Bly Direct Response Copywriter Official Banner

Does Humor Work in Selling?

June 6th, 2009 by Bob Bly

Should we use humor in selling?

The reason not to is fairly compelling:

Of all writing, humor is the most subjective.

Therefore, what you think is funny may leave your reader cold.

To prove that humor is subjective, I submit for your approval my 10 favorite comedy films of all time:

1?Dirty Work.
2?Rat Race.
3?Billy Madison.
4?Men in Black.
5?Scary Movie 3.
6?40 Year Old Virgin.
7?Wedding Crashers.
8?Austin Powers.
9?The Naked Gun.
10?Anchor Man.

Now I ask you: How many of these are also on your list? Not many, I bet.

Which of your favorite comedies did I leave off the list?

How many do you actually think are NOT funny? Probably one or two — proving my thesis that humor is indeed subjective.


This entry was posted on Saturday, June 6th, 2009 at 8:02 am and is filed under Direct Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

91 responses about “Does Humor Work in Selling?”

  1. Does Humor Work in Selling? - blog - direct … | said:

    […] Read the original post here Related > > Review: Poetry Celebrating God, Love, Humor, and …How to Write an EzineKelby Online Training Rick Sammon Exploring Digital Photography …Five Tips to Getting the Best Portrait Shot | Photography tips to … – Photography Collections Find New Home At …'The Hangover' Review: Outlandish Humor That Will Make You Laugh …How to Get More Sales With Email CampaignsEmail Marketing – Grab Your Readers’ Attention With an Enticing Email Subject LineSave Money by Using Free Patient Recall by EmailEmail Marketing – Advantages & Disadvantages of Email Marketing […]

  2. Humor » Does Humor Work in Selling? - blog - direct … said:

    […] Original post:  Does Humor Work in Selling? – blog – approach … […]

  3. Ken Harrison said:


    Your point is well-taken about humor being subjective. Are you also saying that there are universal truths in marketing that are NOT subjective? Isn’t everything we read (or write) subjective in that each individual will read it through his or her own reading glasses? Each seeing and understanding from his or her individual point of view?

    I understand that some marketing pieces pull better than others and are more effective than others. This is undeniable. But I also believe that whether or not they pull is based on a myriad of things that you discuss here on your blog and also in your articles and books (BIG fan BTW). Not the least of which is subjectivity. For example, one person may see a DM piece as the answer to all of his problems and another may see the same piece as another piece of junk mail. Aren’t all marketing pieces subjective? I think humor is just another part that is subjective. I don’t think that humor by itself is the only piece of the subjective pie.


  4. Your Online Business – Taking Calculated Risks. | Internet Marketing Blog said:

    […] Does Humor Work in Selling? – blog – direct … […]

  5. Philip McLean said:

    I’ve seen humor in ads that, to the best of my knowledge, worked: the Alka-Seltzer commercials from the late ’60s (“I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”) to the 2006 Super Bowl FexEx ad, with a caveman fired because he did not use FedEx. I’ll agree, there’s plenty of ads where someone tried to be funny, and it didn’t work, but I’m not sure that it’s really worse than the serious ads that don’t work, either.

  6. Bob Bly said:

    Ken, Philip: While there is a degree of subjectivity in many things, humor has the greatest potential for failing to produce the desired response. Among all the modes of communication, humor is either the most subjective or at least pretty dartn close to it.

  7. Does Humor Work in Selling? - blog - direct … « Marketing Direct said:

    […] Se­e­ o­r­ig­in­al­ he­r­e­: D­oes H­u­m­­or Work in Sel­l­ing? – bl­­­ bl… […]

  8. I.A said:

    Spot on as always Bob… I think humour also depends on what is culturally acceptable. Probably the only not funny is MIB…. The rest is pretty funny in my opinion…. When I write copy I try to leave “being funny” completely off the table.. (how come i can’t hit the return key?)———– Just bought Copywriter’s Handbook from my local Borders AND almost done with Secrets of A Freelance Writer, it’s a very good read, one that I wished I had before I started writing…. ————– Peacefully, I.A.

  9. Ash said:

    Bob, you make a very good point with a good analogy. After reading your headline but before I read what you wrote, I started thinking about movies. Good analogy. I will have to agree with your overall concepts. However, I once read somewhere (probably in one of his books) that David Ogilvy denounced using humor in advertising but the later recanted and said that humor could be a good a good advertising device. I am leaning toward your point of view, but I thought I would bring this up for discussion.

    I also agree with Ken. Those are fairly memorable commercials.

    But overall humor is totally subjective and that is why comedies generally get low ratings and reviews. There is no agreement on it. There are a lot more bad comedies than there are bad action movies.

  10. S.P. Gass said:

    I have no data to support this, but I would suspect funny tv commercials are among the most memorable and effective.

    Comedy fans may also be interested in Funny Farm, Stripes, and Planes, Trains & Automobiles.

  11. Ken said:

    I suppose the big question would be, did all those funny ads go on to increase the sales of the products and services they were advertising…or did they just make people laugh?
    There are lots of funny commercials and ads around today, but after you have your chuckle do you actually go out and buy them?
    I know I don’t.

  12. Bob Bly said:

    In the NYC metro area, a few years ago we were treated to some very funny commercials featuring a crazy dancing old man for an amusement park — Six Flags, as I recall. I also remember that during the campaign, which cost over six million bucks, the increase in ticket sales was zero.

  13. Ken said:

    I remember those commercials…and I remember that campaign being used as an example of very expensive advertising producing no results.
    At the end of the day, that’s what you and all the others teach, right? Funny or not, if it doesn’t increase sales it isn’t any good.

  14. Marjorie Steele said: has an excellent article articulating why that Six Flags campaign might have failed ( The interesting part about Bob’s movie list is that each of those movies are targeted to a pretty specific demographic – just like marketing and sales campaigns are. I think humor in general is tricky, and in order for humorous sales campaigns to be effective, they must be carefully tuned to a particular audience.

    I know that my generation (20-somethings) values comedy and satire pretty highly, and I think marketing campaigns driven by well-written, well targeted humor can be very successful.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Bob!

  15. Jodi Kaplan said:

    There was an Arby’s campaign several years ago featuring a talking oven mitt with Tom Arnold’s voice. They spent $85 million on the campaign. Wonder how many (if any) sandwiches that sold?

    Oh, and the dancing guy from Six Flags is back.

  16. Lou Wasser said:

    It’s a fine line. Humor can detract from the important message in the ad if it’s too blatant or over the top. On the other hand, it can help support a message. Years ago, a very sexy gal touting Noxema Shaving Cream urged TV watchers (men, obviously) to “take it off,” “take it all off.” while the then-popular music entitled “The Stripper” blared in the background.

    The pun equating stripping with shaving was an easy one to grasp, and the ad campaign was immensely successful.

  17. S.P. Gass said:

    I haven’t bought glasses from Four Eyes but really enjoyed a couple of their commercials. I would think the ads were successful tying in a message (don’t overpay for glasses) with humor.

  18. Bob Bly said:

    The media in which humor works best: TV, radio, online video.

    Where it works worst: direct mail, telemarketing.

  19. S.P. Gass said:

    Bob, I agree. In the DC area, Jerry’s Subs has some good radio ads with political impersonators promoting their $5 steak ‘n’ cheese subs.

  20. ‘Does Humor Work In Selling?’ by Bob Bly said:

    […] Does Humor Work In Selling?… […]

  21. Internet Marketing Archives» Blog Archive » 'Does Humor Work In Selling?' by Bob Bly said:

    […] Does Humor Work In Selling?… […]

  22. Steve Rainwater said:

    Hi Bob,

    To speak to your thesis that humor is subjective using your movie list – I laughed so hard during Wedding Crashers I was fatigued at the end of the movie (I was worn out from laughing so much while trying to be respectful to others with my wife constantly elbowing me to laugh more quietly and controlled so as not to be disruptive in the theater – she was laughing too, just not like me) while for me Men in Black was entertaining but hardly provoked a laugh. Scary Movie to me even seemed boring although one of my sons says it is one of his all time most funny.


  23. Steve Rainwater said:

    Hi Bob,

    I forgot to add in the previous entry two comedy movies that are high on my list but did not make yours are Dodgeball and True Lies. I would be interested to know if either of those were appealing to you.


  24. Bob Bly said:

    Steve: I like Scary Movie 3, not Scary Movie. Dodgeball was OK, but not top 10 for me. True Lies was interesting and entertaining, but not really funny.

    I also left off my list what is really my favorite comedy film of all time: Groundhog Day.

  25. offerte mutui said:

    guida mutui…

    […]Does Humor Work in Selling? – blog – direct marketing blog[…]…

  26. My Blog Title said:


    This is my Excerpt…

  27. misted double glazing leicester said:

    misted double glazing leicester…

    […]Does Humor Work in Selling? – blog – direct marketing blog[…]…

  28. dududukkkkkkk said:

    Does Humor Work in Selling? – blog – direct marketing blog Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I have really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!

  29. peopleinorganisationsjcu said:

    Awesome website…

    […]the time to read or visit the content or sites we have linked to below the[…]……

  30. JulieR said:

    Hello Friend, I am writing from Canberra, Australia. Thanks for the interesting post. It helped me a lot with my TAFE cooking essay 🙂

  31. Jc Rappley said:

    Darn! I have to show up at a gathering at my son’s college suitable when which is taking place.

  32. Aleisha Steinhagen said:

    What’s Happening i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I have found It absolutely useful and it has helped me out loads. I hope to contribute & aid other users like its helped me. Great job.

  33. Celia Mccarey said:

    Can I simply say what a reduction to find someone who actually knows what theyre speaking about on the internet. You definitely know find out how to deliver a problem to mild and make it important. More folks need to learn this and understand this aspect of the story. I cant imagine youre not more in style because you definitely have the gift.

  34. massaggi cinesi said:

    That may be an attractive car. The three shades of blue inside and out had been really rather quite and this sort of color-coordination was expected for your moments. Nowadays the only way you’ll be able to get that may be to order a black car together with the requisite black interior not pretty appealing.

  35. Blanche Gizinski said:

    The popular Microsoft zune cell phone browser is certainly incredibly beneficial, but not as nice as any iPod’s. It does work very well, however , just isn’t as swift while Opera, and contains the clunkier ui. If you happen to from time to time consider with all the internet browser it’s not a major problem, but when you wish so that you can explore the net many through your PMP next the iPod’s large panel and better browser could possibly be necessary.

  36. polo ralph lauren on sale said:

    Prom dresses talk about a large amount concerning their wearers. A lot of children people’s eyesight purchase prom dresses, and most gurus go with low risk plans which are very much like the appearance of everybody. Challenge to generally be different and step out from the typical prom dresses and opt for the much more bold, a whole lot more one of a kind shapes.

  37. Rashad Weasel said:

    Thank you for another informative blog. Where else may just I am getting that type of information written in such a perfect means? I have a venture that I’m simply now operating on, and I’ve been on the look out for such info.

  38. Agnus Kamuda said:

    I am really loving the theme/design of your website. Do you ever run into any web browser compatibility issues? A small number of my blog readers have complained about my blog not operating correctly in Explorer but looks great in Opera. Do you have any advice to help fix this issue?

  39. Steffanie Rydman said:

    Good post. I study one thing tougher on totally different blogs everyday. It will all the time be stimulating to learn content material from different writers and observe a little one thing from their store. I?d favor to make use of some with the content material on my weblog whether or not you don?t mind. Natually I?ll offer you a hyperlink in your net blog. Thanks for sharing.

  40. Susannah Basso said:

    Have you ever considered about including a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is valuable and everything. But think of if you added some great visuals or video clips to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with pics and clips, this site could certainly be one of the best in its field. Terrific blog!

  41. Eddie Cerdan said:

    Well I really enjoyed studying it. This post procured by you is very practical for correct planning.

  42. dean c said:

    I have recently started a site, the info you offer on this web site has helped me tremendously. Thank you for all of your time & work. “Quit worrying about your health. It’ll go away.” by Robert Orben.

  43. Freida Geils said:

    Hi, always i used to check blog posts here in the early hours in the morning, because i love to find out more and more.

  44. Alex Yen said:

    Throughout this great scheme of things you receive an A+ for effort. Exactly where you actually confused me personally was first on all the particulars. You know, it is said, the devil is in the details… And it could not be much more correct right here. Having said that, allow me say to you what did give good results. Your writing is really engaging and that is possibly why I am taking the effort to opine. I do not make it a regular habit of doing that. 2nd, even though I can certainly see the leaps in reason you make, I am not really confident of how you seem to connect the ideas which in turn produce the conclusion. For the moment I shall subscribe to your issue but hope in the foreseeable future you actually link your dots better.

  45. Reed Bakke said:

    Inspiring I can correctly say that this post was inspired. If you want a 2nd review message me.

  46. check here said:

    Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your weblog and in accession capital to assert that I get in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing in your feeds and even I achievement you access consistently quickly.

  47. highest recommended electrician in long beach 4 yrs running said:

    A big thank you for your blog. Want more.

  48. Heather Rawdon said:

    Your means of telling all in this piece of writing is actually fastidious, every one can simply be aware of it, Thanks a lot.

  49. craigslist cars said:

    Wow!!! Enjoy the depth and reception shots!! Oh, and anything in among! Wonderful.

  50. pousada said:

    countries that do need lots of financial aids are those coming from Africa. i could only wish that their lives would become better`

  51. Genaro Cushenberry said:

    Excellent, what a blog it is! This weblog provides valuable data to us, keep it up.

  52. Bob Ruhmann said:

    Incredible points. Outstanding arguments. Keep up the amazing spirit.

  53. reverse phone number search free said:

    You have brought up a very superb points, thankyou for the post.

  54. Seattle SEO said:

    I besides think therefore, perfectly indited post!

  55. Cheaters said:

    Locate all that is definitely about News and why it suggests a lot.

  56. Thaddeus Boudreaux said:

    Clear Care Baltimore Md

  57. Del Waiss said:

    Surely, Apple’s request retail outlet is the winner by way of distance. It’s really a large choice of all types for applications instead of a very gloomy choice of a few with regard to Microsoft zune. Ms possesses blueprints, particularly your life of mmorpgs, and yet I don’t know I had wish to wager on the upcoming if it side is essential to you. Ipod is really a a lot better decision so.

  58. Get a Quote at said:

    This actually is an incredibly awesome powerful resource that you’re offering and you just supply it away cost-free!! I comparable to discovering internet sites that view the certain value of delivering you gorgeous finding out resource for zero cost. We absolutely dearly loved examining this website. Be thankful!

  59. oxy elite said:

    I basically had to thank you extremely a lot once again. I’m not particular what I could possibly have followed in the absence of your type of ideas contributed by you concerning my theme. It really was a frightful difficulty for me, nevertheless finding out the pretty professional manner you resolved the problem forced me to jump more than joy. Now i’m thankful for the perform and even hope that you’re conscious of an awesome job you’re doing training persons today thru your blog post. I know that you’ve never got to know any of us.

  60. Thaddeus Muller said:

    Whats Taking place i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve discovered It absolutely useful and it has helped me out loads. I hope to contribute & assist other users like its helped me. Good job.

  61. Project management Singapore said:

    The following time I read a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I truly thought youd have something interesting to say. All I hear is really a bunch of whining about one thing which you might fix really should you werent too busy searching for attention.

  62. Jackie Migues said:

    Hi to all, because I am really keen of reading this webpage?s post to be updated on a regular basis. It contains nice stuff.

  63. benefits of lemon said:

    I am commenting to let you know what a exceptional experience my wife’s child enjoyed viewing your webblog. She picked up several details, with the inclusion of what it truly is like to have an wonderful giving mindset to make a myriad of people effortlessly have an understanding of a variety of specialized topic matter. You honestly inspired her. Thank you for offering the crucial, safe, edifying not to mention easy pointers regarding your subject to Evelyn. Thanks,

  64. Roselia Kettle said:

    Hi! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone 3gs! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts! Carry on the superb work!

  65. try here said:

    Excellent items from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff prior to and you’re just extremely fantastic.
    I really like what you’ve bought right here, certainly like what you are stating and the best way through which you say it. You make it entertaining and you still care for to keep it sensible. I cant wait to read far more from you. This is really a wonderful web site.

  66. real estate said:

    Very well written article. It will be helpful to anybody who utilizes it, as well as yours truly :). Keep doing what you are doing – i will definitely read more posts.

  67. Electricians Talk said:

    Hey, you used to write wonderful, but the last several posts have been kinda boring… I miss your super writings. Past several posts are just a little out of track! come on!

  68. Paola Goldsberry said:

    Certainly high resolution film quality consists of much memory, that?s why it provides enhanced feature.

  69. website making said:

    Nice blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere? A design like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my blog stand out. Please let me know where you got your design. Cheers

  70. Gia Reaux said:

    Thanks a lot for the helpful article. It is also my belief that mesothelioma cancer has an particularly long latency interval, which means that signs of the disease won’t emerge till 30 to 50 years after the 1st exposure to mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma, which can be the most common kind and impacts the area throughout the lungs, might cause shortness of breath, breasts pains, and also a persistent cough, which may bring on coughing up our blood.

  71. Veronika Chhon said:

    Thank you a lot for sharing this with all folks you actually recognise what you are talking about! Bookmarked. Kindly additionally consult with my web site =). We could have a hyperlink exchange contract between us!

  72. Andra Eibell said:

    Thank you a lot for giving everyone an exceptionally pleasant opportunity to read articles and blog posts from here. It is often very amazing and also packed with a lot of fun for me and my office mates to search your website more than thrice per week to study the fresh tips you have. And definitely, I am also certainly satisfied concerning the outstanding information served by you. Some 3 areas in this posting are certainly the simplest we’ve ever had.

  73. Leida Kalista said:

    Whats up this is kind of of off topic but I was wanting to know if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding knowledge so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be enormously appreciated!

  74. Florentino Zaccaria said:

    I was more than happy to seek out this net-site.I wanted to thanks to your time for this wonderful read!! I positively having fun with every little little bit of it and I’ve you bookmarked to check out new stuff you blog post.

  75. Traci Lepri said:

    Thanks for the points you have discussed here. Another thing I would like to say is that computer system memory specifications generally increase along with other breakthroughs in the know-how. For instance, whenever new generations of processors are introduced to the market, there is certainly usually a matching increase in the type calls for of all laptop memory plus hard drive room. This is because the software program operated through these processor chips will inevitably increase in power to use the new technological know-how.

  76. Amos Fiers said:

    The heart of your writing whilst appearing agreeable originally, did not work very well with me personally after some time. Somewhere throughout the sentences you actually managed to make me a believer unfortunately just for a short while. I still have got a problem with your leaps in assumptions and one might do nicely to help fill in those gaps. When you can accomplish that, I could definitely be fascinated.

  77. Steve Deanes said:

    Great goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you are just too excellent. I really like what you’ve acquired here, certainly like what you are saying and the way in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still care for to keep it wise. I cant wait to read far more from you. This is really a wonderful website.

  78. Roger Mcgonigal said:

    Wonderful blog! Do you have any helpful hints for aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any tips? Thanks a lot!

  79. Cameron Rakoci said:

    Somebody essentially help to make seriously posts I would state. This is the first time I frequented your website page and thus far? I surprised with the research you made to create this particular publish incredible. Great job!

  80. Ahmad Cheers said:

    It’s exhausting to find educated individuals on this matter, but you sound like you realize what you’re talking about! Thanks

  81. accommodation in Pretoria said:

    Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your blog? My website is in the very same niche as yours and my visitors would really benefit from some of the information you provide here. Please let me know if this alright with you. Thanks!

  82. Crushing Poker said:

    Please let me know if you’re looking for a author for your blog. You have some really good posts and I feel I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d love to write some material for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please send me an email if interested. Cheers!

  83. Adolph Uyeno said:

    I have learned some new things via your site. One other thing I would like to say is always that newer laptop operating systems are likely to allow additional memory to get used, but they also demand more memory space simply to operate. If someone’s computer cannot handle extra memory and the newest computer software requires that storage increase, it usually is the time to shop for a new Computer. Thanks

  84. Hi-Spec Conservatory roof blinds said:

    Hi-Spec Conservatory roof blinds from Hi-Spec double glazing.

  85. Donny Brzozowski said:

    I was wondering if you ever considered changing the page layout of your site? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or 2 pictures. Maybe you could space it out better?

  86. Tarjeta BIP saldo y movimientos said:

    Estimados: Estoy en busca de redactores para nuestro sitio web. Es posible contactarlos?

  87. penis enlargement exercises said:

    All of us really like your blog and look for the majority of the post’s to generally be what precisely I am just seeking. Will you give guests internet writers to write content to meet your needs? I would not intellect to become a publish or perhaps elaborating with a several of the subject areas you are submitting in terms of here. Once more, awesome site!

  88. Arthur Rodriguez said:

  89. jacob said:

  90. Max said:

  91. sam miller said:

Leave a Reply