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Jane Austin: can Ryan Reynolds make advertising fun again?

“Ads should be fun”, Ryan Reynolds told Cannes yesterday. It’s a highly controversial statement for an industry that lost all interest in fun years ago. Thankfully, the Hollywood actor-turned-adman also offered some lessons in comedy for the more humourless amongst us.

If anyone can save us from the endless procession of tedious purpose-driven ads surely it’s Ryan Reynolds, whose greatest ad hits include his Aviation Gin film skewering that horrifying Peloton Christmas ad (below.) He’s also been dubbed the King of Twitter for hilarious tweets like: “People in LA are deathly afraid of gluten. I swear to god, you could rob a liquor store with a bagel” and “I’d walk through fire for my daughter. Well not fire because it’s dangerous. But a super humid room. But not too humid, because my hair.”

A key tactic to use, the Deadpool star told Cannes, is to stop pretending your ad isn’t an ad. Stripping away the artifice and admitting that an ad is an ad is the gateway to humour. “We are very clear that this is marketing,” he said.

The first hurdle here of course is to get advertising people to admit that what they make is advertising. People who work in this industry have spent years trying to pretend what they do is “creativity”. Some of them even think it’s art. Now that is funny. Imagine going to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Advertising? Never going to happen.

By contrast, Reynolds is not ashamed to say he makes ads. He loves making them apparently. Hopefully a celebrity outing himself in this way will encourage others to come forward.

Of course, it can be hard to find your sense of humour when your job is to fan the flames of consumption in a world that is on the brink of extinction. Maybe watching this compilation of comedy gold from past Cannes Lions winners will help you see the funny side.

Jane Austin is Founder of Persuasion Communications.
Photograph: Bronac McNeill

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