Humour in advertising is on the rise and Christmas ads should be funnier this year, Kantar has found.

So far this year 56% of ads have aimed to raise a smile, which, if the trend continues, will make 2023 the first year since the pandemic in which the majority of ads have employed humour.

The proportion in 2020 was 44%, falling to 43% in 2021 and recovering only to 45% in 2022. The high watermark, according to Kantar’s records, is about 66% in the early 2000s.

The research also found one in four people has laughed out loud at a Christmas ad in the past.

As a result of this data, Kantar said ads that make people smile or laugh make more of an impact with consumers and are more effective commercially.

Lynne Deason, head of creative excellence at Kantar, said humour not only helps ads stand out, it also sparks conversations and makes them more memorable.

Kantar credited Christmas ads for their ability to bring people together, with 26% of people talking about Christmas ads with friends and family and just over 20% of 16- to 44-year-olds discussing campaigns with colleagues.

Deason noted that there has been a “dip” in laughter with brands choosing a “sadder, more sentimental, and heartfelt route” recently.

One in 10 British consumers said they had shed a tear after watching a festive campaign.  

Deason added: “Sadder storylines can be effective but when times are tough, like they are now for many people going through the cost-of-living crisis, all we really want for Christmas is something uplifting. People want entertaining advertising that makes them feel good.”

According to Kantar, one in ten people will watch more television in the hope of catching Christmas ads, while 15% of 16- to 34-year-olds said they get together with others to view ads.

Deason said: “Of course, there’s a lot riding on these campaigns commercially for the brands that invest in them, and advertisers will be hoping their ads can help them cut through and win the battle for the Christmas pound.

“The competition is likely to be particularly fierce this year with a whopping 81% of people saying they will shop around for the best offers.”

Deason said Kantar’s data suggests that people are feeling more optimistic compared to 2022 but there is still financial pressure on many household budgets.

She added: “Brands will need to walk this tightrope carefully, bringing the joy that people truly love about Christmas ads while making sure their content isn’t out of kilter with the economic realities that some consumers are facing.”

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