Last Friday I was lucky enough to catch living comedic legend, John Cleese, in a Vancouver performance of his Last Time to See Me Before I Die tour. But as he zig-zagged through his charming life story, featuring a real who’s who of beloved British icons, a recurring gag caught me by surprise.
Following each mention of “marketing people,” Cleese hawked a cartoonishly elaborate loogy into an imaginary spittoon. Imagine my dismay as he mimed spitting all over the career I’ve nurtured like a baby hedgehog!
See, I love marketing. Understanding how to reach people and doing it well is a pretty cool superpower. And though comedians generally have a checkered relationship with marketers, marketing itself is an innately funny profession. Lampooning what we do has become a go-to for many acts, and embracing that chewy center of dark humor is really the only way anyone can live through yet another launch.
The incomparable David Mitchell and Robert Webb take on gendered advertising in this short & sweet send-up spot.
A fictional encyclopedia company misinterprets their data in this ad for Adobe’s new Marketing Cloud suite. Adobe have delivered some pretty kick-ass commercials in their bid to influence marketers, spoofing everything from BS detection, a math-savvy but analytically-challenged Robot, ineffectual Fortune Teller and lacklustre Psychologist.
Scofield Editorial, a production house in Indianapolis, planted their tongues firmly in cheek to put together this award-winning sketch capturing the absurdity of certain client situations. It strikes major chords with marketers, and with over 2 million views on YouTube pretty much anybody who’s ever had a client of any kind can relate including doctors, lawyers, truckers and more who’ve written in to say they totally get it.
With years of agency life, video production and creative direction on his résumé, it’s no wonder Michael D Starcevich’s wry portrayal of “The Process,” from the brief to production and through to launch, hits home. If your home is a Kafkaesque labyrinth of sadness.
Presented at Idea Forum 2007, this MSN spot showcases a funny literalized break-up between a brand and its fed-up target.
Check out the video here.
No list of awesome marketing-tinged pastiche would be complete without a dollop of Saturday Night Live détournement. I like Broadview Security for the way it sends up security ads and the treatment of female target demos, but there are many skits close to my cold marketer’s heart that I can’t link to here. While many of their classic parodies like Mom Jeans have been removed on YouTube, Hulu and other networks (in fact, the one embedded above will surely come to the same fate one day), you can buy the Best of Commercial Parodies DVD, watch the whole thing on Netflix or some are available on the official SNL Hulu channel - if you’re in (or unblocked to) the right country.
[**Warning: NSFW - Strong Language]
Back in the 90s Bob Odenkirk and David Cross produced this swear-laden take on an imaginary conglomerate’s various brand properties. The memorable f&*%ing boardroom parody holds up to this day as a pretty effective, if ill-advised, way to get c-level attention.
john st. remains the only agency with the foresight and cojones to fully invest in cat video treatments and this award-winning satirical ad trumpeting these services. They’ve made a real name for themselves through sophisticated spoofs, with mock product BUYRAL and The Pink Pony Case Study also packing a barrel of meta marketing laughs.
Of course I had to go with a Monty Python sketch for Number 1! Not only does John Cleese play a “marketing person” (hhhhwit-puhh!) but it highlights what he believes is at the core of why dark humor works: simultaneously goosing and alleviating anxiety.
At the heart of this skit is the anxiety around the tremendous power marketers have to influence and change brand perception. Every manager chuckles on occasion about how they could consciously take their brand in an absurd direction (but don’t, of course), in large part no doubt because we all privately fear being the oblivious victim of the kind of blunder that has everyone thinking, “How could they not have seen that coming…”
What I love about Conquistador Coffee Campaign is that it takes the worst possible strategy to its logical, hilarious extreme. Not to mention it shows that, for all his talk, Cleese clearly has respect (albeit begrudging) for what we do.
Good luck keeping a straight face through this literal post-mortem, and here’s hoping your next campaign is 100% leprosy-free!
Do you have a favorite funny marketing video that isn’t on the list, or do you disagree with our ranking? Chime in with comments, we’d love to hear your thoughts!