Is your Super Bowl ad making HER laugh? 

Why do so few campaigns target women in their funny bone, ask McCann New York's global executive creative directors, Cinzia Crociani and Jim Curtis?

The Super Bowl — the holy grail of mainstream, iconic, lol-worthy advertising. As the event continues to transform into an all-encompassing cultural spectacle, its audience is rapidly changing, too.

The viewership of this year’s Super Bowl is expected to hit a new peak. According to Nielsen, the female audience is up to 46% - marking more female viewers than any other major female centered entertainment award shows. This proves the world’s most coveted advertising space is well and truly no longer just a sanctuary reserved for beers and trucks. (Not that women don’t drink beer and drive trucks, but you get our point.)

With brands such as NYX Professional Makeup, Elf, Temu, Dove, and Etsy filling the airspace this year, it’s clear many marketers and media agencies have caught up to today’s audience. But are creative agencies lagging behind?

‘Ads aren’t as funny as they used to be,’ is a common sentence I’m sure many of you have heard over the past few years. I’m sure when you dig a little deeper, many of the ‘funny’ ads these people are referring to were ads specifically written through a male lens, for a male audience. And often, with women playing oversexualized roles, as the butt of the joke.

As this type of bro-vertising naturally faded away, have agencies stepped-up to fill the available space and, as the title of this article suggests, make her laugh?

Surprise, surprise — some have and some haven’t. But it’s safe to say, many of us in agency land could be making her laugh harder and more often. A better way of saying this is — agencies used to tell jokes just for him, why are they now hesitant to tell jokes just for her? Because, yes, women have a sense of humor, too.

If you look back through the archives of iconic Super Bowl advertising, it’s painfully difficult to name ads that do this. Sure, there are many iconic spots for her, which have no doubt helped a much needed societal shift (see below).

But how many can you name that made her laugh like Budweiser’s ‘Wassup’ commercial made him laugh? Not many. Perhaps that’s because, until recently, if there was any commercial space reserved just for her, maybe we didn’t want to waste it on something so trivial?

But it’s 2024. Are we ready now? Are we ready to just give her a chuckle?

Interestingly, one of the best commercials of all time used this strategy to great effect.

Yet, when the inevitable copycat ads began to pop-up, they tended to copy the surrealistic tone, more than the genius of the audience target.

This year, the number of Super Bowl ads that specially aim to make her laugh is still very low. And given that CMOs’ often allow the biggest opportunities for humor in the Super Bowl, perhaps some agencies should shift their focus away from trying to ‘make ads funny again’ and start writing ads through a female lens, for a female audience? And, god forbid, with men as the butt of the joke?

Now, we’re not saying men and women can’t find the same things funny, or that agencies shouldn’t often aim to make everyone laugh equally. All we’re saying is — if it’s best for the brand and the business opportunity to specifically give her a laugh, then why don’t we? Or another question to ask yourself is — do you have the right creative leaders, creative department and creative process to deliver on such an opportunity?

This gave us an actual, audible ‘lol’. Yes, it’s pretty much just the meme that’s been flying around, but it’s so well written. The Beckhams should be very proud of their performances.

Good on Pete Davidson for being able to take a joke and date a cat.

If you advertise a product during the Super Bowl that promises to make things bigger and plumper, what could possibly go wrong when men see it? When you see the full Super Bowl spot, ask someone to woman-splain it to you.

To summarise, the Super Bowl is an engine that not only drives change for brands, but also for creative agencies. And for a long time, the money, resources and creative opportunity that comes with a Super Bowl commercial benefited those who could capture and entertain a predominantly male audience.

Today, with that audience well and truly changed, making her laugh will not just be good for business, but also good for your agency.

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