Funny, Sure But Does It Sell?

Funny TV ads make you laugh, all right. Think of Joe Isuzu, the Energizer Bunny, Wendy's Clara ("Where's the beef?") Peller. But do they make you buy any more than serious ones? Nope. A new study debunks the huckster myth that funny commercials last longer in the minds of consumers than other spots. "We've found that all ads wear out the same," says Mark Gleason, executive vice-president of Research Systems, an ad research firm in Evansville, Ind. "People might enjoy watching humorous ads, but it has done its stuff once you've comprehended the message."

Rib-tickling advertisers shrug off the findings, saying ads are only part of the promotional mix--there are also discounts, packaging, etc. And anyway, they all think their particular ads benefit from humor. Take Miller Lite, the nation's No.2 brew behind Budweiser. Its latest campaign features some fictive odd couplings of wacky sports, such as the sumo wrestler high-dive competition. When the massive diver hits the water, he drenches the judges and craters the pool floor. Other Miller Lite ads: full-contact golf (linemen sack the duffer) and luge bowling (luge sledders are pursued by bowling balls). Says Miller spokesman Eric Straus: "Beer drinkers identify Miller Lite with fun."