Posted by: Chris | February 11, 2008

Don’t be “That Guy” When It Comes to Advertising…Unless You’re Jerry Seinfeld

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For me, pretty much all life lessons come back to Seinfeld. Some people use the Godfather. I use Seinfeld.

Maybe you remember the episode in which Elaine is trying to come up with a cartoon for the New Yorker? Pig at a complaint department? Elaine’s caption: “I wish I was taller.” Jerry’s revision: “I can’t find my receipt, this place is a sty.” To which Elaine replies (with derision): “Everything with you has to be so…jokey.” Jerry defends: “I’m a comedian.”

Long way around to my point about an advertising concern: commercials these days are just so…jokey.

Surely you’ve been to a party, a dinner, or an otherwise large group of people, and inevitably, there is “that guy” who tries to be the life of the party by quipping some hackneyed joke after every comment everyone makes. Gets annoying, doesn’t it? The guy eventually is recognized, not as so-and-so’s husband, or the sales manager at x company; he is just known as the guy who tries to tell jokes all of the time. His identity is defined as nothing more than “jokey.” (By the way, if you’ve never noticed this guy, I have bad news for you…)

I’m seeing this trend more and more in advertising (namely, TV commercials) today. It seems like ad agencies are so concerned about making us laugh, about entertaining us, they they forfeit the part about their client’s brand. I can tell you a bunch of “jokey” commercials I’ve seen on TV, but if I had to take a matching test in which I must connect the joke to the company, I’m afraid I would fail.

Obviously, humor can be extremely valuable in advertising. But the humor cannot be utilized merely for the sake of humor. Humor in advertising has to be metaphoric. It must reinforce the company brand. It has to be inseparably and clearly tied to the company’s desired position. If it doesn’t, you risk becoming “that guy.” Unless of course you’re Jerry Seinfeld-a comedian-and arbitrary humor actually builds your brand. Then, you can be as jokey as you want!



  1. Good blog. You touched on two of my favorite subjects… marketing and Seinfeld. How many times these days do you see a clever ad, laugh, and don’t remember the product…

    No lessons learned, no hugs, my friend!


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