What If People Laugh at Your Unfunny Ad?

While in New York, I watched two movies at the Angelika Film Center. As usual, there were several ads before each movie. I saw this one twice:

If you watch it all the way through, you’ll see an artfully-shot piece that’s vaguely about making journeys. At the end, you’ll discover that it’s a commercial for Louis Vuitton.

Both times this ad was shown, the audience laughed when the Louis Vuitton brand was displayed at the end. As far as I can tell, they were responding to the disconnect between the high-minded content and the ordinary brand associated with it.

Calvin Klein and Laser Pointers

I was reminded of another ad, from years ago. It was, in my memory, one of the first ads before a movie that I ever saw. It featured a bunch of heroin chic kids moping around the house, and I distinctly remember that one young lad was toying with a laser pointing and aiming it at the camera.

The audience responded the same way at the end, with a kind of mocking contempt for the way their expectations were raised and then disappointed. Do you remember this ad? I tried to find it on the web, and even asked Metafilter, but no such luck.

In any case, it’s interesting to see these long-form commercials receive this particular response. Some of it, I’m sure, has to do with the fact that they’re being viewed in a social setting. The audience has a collective reaction as well as an individual one. And, obviously, we’re responding to the disconnect between the promise of the high-falutin’, edgy ad and the banality (or total irrelevance) of the brand they’re promoting.

Did you have the same reaction to this ad?

Incidentally, I’m not sure why I’m on an advertising kick at the moment. Don’t worry, it won’t last.


  1. I can only guess, but maybe the laughter was an uncomfortable reaction to something very high-minded in the midst of a low-brow experience.

    I wasn’t at your movie, but often there are promotions for popcorn and soft drinks, local advertising, suggestions to be quiet and turn off cell phones, and previews for Snakes on a Plane. The Louis Vuitton ad, which I enjoyed, doesn’t fit there for most people.

  2. I agree with Darren’s opinion – sorry, Joel. I’m sure the audience’s reaction is due to the incongruity between the quasi-philosophical video (and the expectation of an appropriately philosophical ending) and the completely abrupt turn to bags and suitcases.
    As I see it, the audience’s reaction could have been much more positive (laughter, too, but appreciative), if there had been an ironic turn towards the end, like after the caption “Life itself is a journey” – “Since you are travelling all your life, make sure your luggage looks good” or something along those lines. 😉

  3. Since Vuitton is one of those brands that is particularly known for being high-priced and snooty-rich, rather than genuinely practical, the irony is even more pronounced. Especially during an economic downturn.

    People who travel to discover themselves probably don’t own Vuitton luggage. They’re going to have a backpack from Mountain Equipment Co-op or something. It’s like footage of stock-car racing advertising Rolls Royce: it just doesn’t work.

  4. Wonderful promise to the ad — incredible production, budget and beauty — by no payoff. And no lead up to the brand.

    Expectations, high. Delivery, banal.

    You could have substituted pretty much any high-end aspirational brand at the end. Maybe Emirates airline. A luxury travel agent or tour operator.

    This seems to be the trend in some longer-form advertising. HSBC did a 2-minute ad about lumberjacks and protestors. A mini movie, really. And the payoff? About the same.

    Here’s the HSBC ad:

    I stand by what I said about the HSBC ad, ‘for an ad that trades on emotions, the payoff of the ad feels tone deaf to me.’

  5. I knew it was coming and I still laughed!

    We should possibly also consider the audience. Would people who purchase LV react in the same way in a different environment? I submit that in addition to being a poor art/brand mix, that an example of misplaced marketing communication has occurred. The Angelika isn’t that expensive a theatre, eh?

  6. @gilliebean The Angelika is an art house, but it’s not a second-run cinema. The tickets were $12, I think. Plus you’d be advertising to a fairly sophisticated (and possibly cynical) Manhattan audience.

    I agree, though, that the ad is better targeted to existing LV customers who already think they’re the bee’s knees for owning a fancy bag.

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