Newswise — Advertisers looking to score " and get the biggest bang for their buck -- on Super Sunday should lighten up, says advertising researcher Dr. Thomas Cline, associate professor of marketing in the Alex G. McKenna School of Business at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa.

Dr. Cline studies the use of humor in marketing and reviews the effectiveness of Super Bowl ads.

The Super Bowl is a party day, he notes. "More beer, soda and chips are sold that day than the Fourth of July. It's that atmosphere that dictates which ads will work."

For example, last year's number one ad, according to USA Today's Ad Meter, was Anheuser-Busch's "Instant Reply," starring a zebra refereeing Budweiser's famous football-playing Clydesdale horses.

"Not only did it tie in with the festive atmosphere, it tied in with the football game itself," he says. Since the NFL no longer allows direct tie-ins to the Super Bowl (like the now defunct Bud Bowl), this is the next best thing.

"Ads that work well are context consistent," Cline says. "They have that festive atmosphere."

But humor is the defining characteristic of a Super Bowl ad, he observes. His research found that 24 out of last year's 25 ads intended to elicit humor. Not all succeed, however.

"Weak humor is worse than none," says Cline. "We see this all the time. Not only is it not funny, it's just annoying. Advertisers need to attract enough attention to keep folks from going to the bathroom, and then sustain their attention by rewarding them with a punchline at the end."

The use of humor has a lot to do with the Super Bowl audience. Cline's research has found that men are more likely than women to buy something just because the advertising was funny.

"Even when women like the humor of an ad, they didn't necessarily like the product. But if men think an ad is funny, they like the product. Women were found to be more careful shoppers, while men rely more on the emotion of the advertising."

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