Why funny is paying off for big US phone advertisers

0-1Marketing professional turned freelance tech writer Sam Melton looks at how some US phone advertisers have discovered that humour works best.

Companies can take different routes in advertising. They can play dirty and bash competitors. They can take the high road and not mention them at all. They can take the comedic route.

Lucky for us, AT&T, Motorola and T-Mobile have all ditched the Apple/Samsung brand of bashing and are showing us ad spots that make us laugh – and pretty hard, too.

Check out some recent favorite ad campaigns – and find out what makes them work.

AT&T: “It’s Not Complicated”

AT&T  has been running this ad series for a while now. It features Beck Bennett (now an SNL cast member) and a group of four kids. The semi-improvised ads have struck gold – the kids give the greatest answers as they try to explain that bigger is better than smaller, why it’s better to have things now and why they’d rather have more than less.

AT&T has even tailored these ads to run during certain times of the year –during the NCAA tournament, the usual cast of four kids was replaced by basketball legends.

What makes this approach smart? Kids are cute. The nature of the commercial is friendly – not threatening, not calling out competitors.

Did you know? Bennett is currently on his first season of SNL. And the director behind AT&T’s commercials is Jorma Taconne, 1/3 of comedy group The Lonely Island and a former SNL writer and supporting actor.?

T-Mobile: “JUMP”

T-Mobile also dipped into the SNL pool and snagged veteran performer Bill Hader for its “JUMP” campaign.

The gist of the ads? T-Mobile is promoting its JUMP program, which allows customers to upgrade more frequently than ever before (they pay a monthly fee that includes device insurance, so if you drop, break or drown a phone, you can upgrade every 6 months).

What makes this approach smart? JUMP is something exclusive to T-Mobile. Plus, the ads feature everyday mishaps that we can relate to – a cracked screen, for example.

Did you know? T-Mobile CEO John Legere has openly mocked the AT&T ad spots . At a press conference this year, he mirrored the set-up of the AT&T commercials – but instead of talking to four kids, he “talked” to four dolls.

Motorola Moto X: “Lazy Phone”

Motorola kicked off a campaign for its Moto X back in September, and the reaction? Priceless.

These spots feature actor and comedian TJ Miller as your “lazy phone.” Each ad highlights a feature of the Moto X (so far they’ve highlighted touchless control, active display and quick capture).

What makes this approach smart? Motorola is showcasing its products features without directly discrediting competitors. It keeps the ads light, fresh and, most of all, hilarious.

Did you know? Motorola is owned by Google.

What do all these advertising campaigns have in common?  Comedic performances and a tasteful approach – not to mention, they are all for phone campaigns.

So who’s missing? Verizon Wireless  hasn’t had a buzz-worthy campaign in a long time – but now that Verizon has bought out Vodafone’s shares of Verizon Wireless, maybe an advertising reboot is in the works. If it’s new Halloween ad is anything to go by, then hopefully a new campaign is on the way.

Bottom line – we love where these advertising campaigns are going. It’s refreshing that these companies are taking an angle that doesn’t go after the image and products of competitors. Let’s hope these kind of ads are here to stay.

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