Our Journey so Far

By: Karianne Johnsen

This week, our team will fly to Dublin, Ireland to begin the U.K. portion of our research. As the semester comes to an end, we’ve compiled a plethora of insight from students and working professionals. We wanted to share our main takeaways of how humor is perceived in different cultures, and how it is used in advertising and public relation campaigns and strategies in the United States compared to the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Caitlin Kelley, a Research Coordinator at Hitchcock Fleming and Associates in Akron, Ohio, said,

“Humor has to be used carefully in agencies. It all depends on the client, their
product or service and their overall tone.”

This supported what we found in the ad comparison, Shifting Gears for Different Countries where our Lead Researcher, Karianne, compared two different Volkswagen commercials in the United States and the United Kingdom. We found the ads to pull on our heartstrings, aiming for the emotional connection with the desired consumer while making them laugh. Humor is used to create that connection between the brand and its audience, while the type of product or service decides what kind of humor is used.

While humor can be used as a tool to establish a connection with a target audience, it sometimes does not reach people the way it’s intended to. Jim Gough, the Creative Director at Marcus Thomas in Cleveland, Ohio, said,

“Slogans can have different meanings in various languages when translated.”

That key insight goes for written, spoken and even picture advertisements. It’s important to know how humor will be seen and interpreted in different languages, because it could mean something entirely different or be unintentionally offensive. In short, do your research beforehand!

To no surprise, the perceptions and definitions of humor vary from country to country. As noted by our Lead Writer, Julia Sprowls, in our first blog post titled Humor vs. Humour, humor is used in almost half of all television advertising, according to a study conducted by Millward Brown. In the beginning stages of our research, we found primary sources that defined American as “slapstick humor,” the opportunity to laugh at the actions of others and embarrassing situations. This is why shows like “Jackass” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos” are so successful in America. On the other hand, British humor was seen to be more dark and sarcastic as seen in the British version of “The Office.”

As students of Kent State, we are lucky to have study abroad information and resources offered through the University’s Office of Global Education and through individual colleges. We had the opportunity to speak with several students who have studied in London and Ireland. They were able to give us their view on the opposing culture’s humor. Caroline Clunk saw British humor to be “more implied and under-the-surface” in comparison to American humor. Another Kent State student said she say Irish humor “to be more dry and centered around their drinking culture.” Everyone we spoke with said once you got the hang of the slang and use of humor, it was pretty funny. We can’t wait to find out for ourselves! Be sure to follow our journey on Twitter and Instagram also.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s