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Let’s Make People Laugh Again: Reflections from Cannes

Zeno Group at Cannes 2023

As the dust settles on Cannes Lions conversations, I can’t help but feel how emotionally heavy a lot of the work was this year. Only one in 10 of Gold and Grand Prix winners in 2022 used humour in their work and even fewer used it this year. And the well-documented global rise in unhappiness (negative emotions such as stress, sadness, anger and worry) remains unchanged from last year, according to Gallup’s Negative Experience Index. 

Of course, there are times when ‘serious’ campaigns are needed. The world needs communicators and creatives to help solve complex business problems and societal issues. But let’s not be afraid to be funny and bring a smile to people’s faces during these challenging times when we can.

Fact is humour does work and can be more effective. Kantar’s ad reaction study shows that humour is more memorable, distinctive, desirable and persuasive:   

  • 90% say they are more likely to remember a funny ad or piece of communications 
  • 80% say they are more likely to recommend a funny brand  
  • 72% say they would choose a humorous brand over the competition

And if you want to make your work ‘go viral’, just do funny. The number one thing people want content creators to be is funny in their content:

  • 76% of Gen Z say that they want to see comedic content on TikTok – including from brands 
  • 94% of Gen Z say they are more likely to remember funny ads – more than any other generation

Zeno’s The Human Project, which explores human values globally, tells us that "having fun" is a key rising value of younger people globally.   

Winning work by brands that used humour in unlikely categories (e.g., addressing taboos) stood out this year:

  • Humour can work in unlikely categories. Take the 2023 Grand Prix Health & Wellness winner, Life Partners ‘Last Performance.’  The life insurance brand partnered with a murder mystery TV show to bring dead characters from the show back to life for one ‘last performance’ before the credits and in doing so challenge perceptions around life insurance. 
  • Purpose is essential but doesn’t always have to be serious. Take the 2023 Gold Lions winner Honest Eggs Co. who is on a mission to change egg farming for the better and address the disillusionment among consumers around claims of being free range. Honest Eggs Co’s chicken step counters are a slightly ridiculous gimmick, but they do a good job of emphasising the company’s commitment to transparency with humour.

Creativity can be and flourishes from being fun, in which people feel free to play around, make silly suggestions, and be open and unguarded. We need to rediscover a kind of creativity that includes and celebrates fun and frivolity. Creativity that produces campaigns that are popular, light-hearted, and famous.  

So, what better time and place to use humour to make the world a better place and sell more at the same time. Here’s to more funny, light-hearted, and crazy work that makes a difference next year at Cannes!