It's the silly season. It comes around every four years as we prepare to elect our next president. It's a nonstop onslaught of recrimination, false claims and character assassination. And if you're unfortunate enough to live in a battleground state, the noise is unremitting.
We all could use a little comic relief during this campaign. FedEx Office provides exactly that with a 30-second sendup of an unexpected encounter between two political rivals at a FedEx outlet. FedEx has been delivering the laughs for years in its TV spots, and this one by BBDO New York is no exception.
The two fictional candidates, one named Bob Pearce and the other named Alex Taylor, waste no time in taking shots at each other as they stand at opposite ends of the counter to pick up campaign collateral prepared by FedEx Office.
The city council candidate known as Bob greets his opponent: “Oh, hey, Alex. Just picking up some brochures, posters and copies of my acceptance speech.” Retorts his opponent: “Great. It's always good to have a back-up plan ... in case I get hit by a meteor.”
Oozing with the unctuous charm of a master politician, Bob admires Alex's campaign poster, hot off FedEx Office's press. “Wow. Your hair looks great. I didn't realize they did PhotoShop here.”
Returning serve, Alex compliments Bob on the campaign coffee cups bearing his image. “Good call on the mugs. Can't let them see what you're drinking.”
Bob then seems to extend an olive branch by offering his hand and saying: “I'm glad we're both running a nice, clean race. No need to get nasty.” At the same moment, a FedEx Office employee steps forward to display Bob's freshly minted campaign yard sign that says: “Honk if you've had an affair with Taylor.”
It was refreshing to see this use of topical humor in b-to-b advertising, which is usually deadly serious stuff. The use of humor is not addressed in the 10 Chasers' criteria etched on our sacred stone tablets, but that's not to say it shouldn't be done.
There are good reasons to use humor. First of all, it's entertaining, and who doesn't like a good laugh? Second, humor can make a company seem more approachable and more human. Business is about relationships, and most of us prefer to do business with people or companies we like.
But there are enormous risks, too. What might strike the agency creatives or the company's brain trust as uproariously funny might strike the audience—or parts of the audience—as tasteless. (See Groupon's ill-fated Super Bowl ad that clearly came out the wrong end of the barrel.) Another problem: Audiences often remember the punch line but not the product or service.
And the shelf life for humor is short. Punch lines grow stale in a hurry. That said, we're convinced that this 30-second FedEx Office spot works wonderfully. The comedic skit is built around products. Throughout the spot, viewers see professionally prepared signs, banners, brochures and logoed coffee mugs.
The distinctive FedEx Office logo is evident in nearly every frame, and the end frame itself ties it all together with the “Get ahead with FedEx Office” tagline. This spot works from a branding perspective as well. Branding efforts, of course, must be done on a consistent basis, and FedEx has for years made smart use of humor in its marketing.