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Humor In Healthcare. You’re kidding, right?

Try to imagine a world without humor. Blah, no thanks.


Yet that’s exactly the world many healthcare brands ask us to visit, for 30 seconds or more. Why?


Humor is ever-present in medicine. Oncologists are notorious for their jokes. Humor has even been known to help critical patients recover.


If it’s effective in healthcare, doesn’t it have a place in healthcare advertising too? Or should healthcare marketing be dead serious?


We think not. Yet, we do understand the desire to be taken seriously. And believe it or not, that’s exactly where humor comes in.


Here’s the insight: Sharing a laugh builds trust. And that’s in addition to the other things humor delivers on – gaining attention, aiding memory, and building positive brand associations.


It’s important to remember that human beings don’t believe everything they’re told. They bring a whole array of preconceived assumptions, skepticism, and mistrust to every conversation.


Effective advertising has to get past that hurdle, and humor is incredibly effective in this regard. It triggers an emotional and mental response that momentarily suspends disbelief, enhancing empathy toward your underlying message. Share a laugh, and suddenly your audience is on the same page with you. In other words, it builds trust.


Isn’t that what healthcare brands need, to build trust with their audience?


Recently, UnitedHealthcare ran a campaign about funny mishaps that lead to urgent medical care. Not a light-hearted topic by any means, but the ads are so grounded in human insight that we can’t get enough of them. (Here’s another one of our favorites.) They go a long way toward making a big health system seem friendly, approachable and human.


Not all brands will have the inclination to take this approach, or the agency partner to get it right.


Especially in healthcare. Are you sensing an opportunity here?

Author: Alec Lawson

Alec’s 15 year career in advertising has taken him to agencies large and small, including BBDO, DDB, and TracyLocke, in places such as New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. He’s worked on national campaigns for brands including Pepsi, Pizza Hut, Subway, Lockheed Martin, and Microsoft. Along the way, Alec has helped clients leverage the power of TV, Radio, Digital, Direct Mail, Point-of-Purchase and Business-to-Business advertising. He had nothing to do with the annoying TV commercial you saw last night.

Published March 2021

Category Creative