Humor in Advertising: Comparing Australia, the United States and the People's Republic of China

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Conference Proceeding

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Humor is frequently used in advertising worldwide, but determining how to increase the effectiveness of these appeals has not been comprehensively explored. The purpose of this study was to explore current practice in the use of humorous appeals in television advertising in Australia, the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China. This research builds on our understanding of humorous advertising in cross-national settings in two important ways. First, we investigate advertiser choice of ad appeals in a country where advertising is a fairly recent phenomenon compared with countries where it is a long-standing practice. Second, in addition to comparing humorous and non-humorous appeals, we also compare the use of humor mechanisms and themes. Although the frequency of use of humor as an advertising appeal was not consistent across cultures, the use of incongruity-resolution type humor is universal. The choice of themes in humorous appeals did vary in that individualist cultures are more likely to use aggressive humor than collectivist cultures. These findings have implications for marketing strategy worldwide, providing a benchmark on which to base further research into the effectiveness of the humorous appeals in these diverse cultural contexts.


Abstract from Proceedings of the 51st Annual Meeting of the Academy of International Business, San Diego, CA, June 27-30, 2009.