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Razor ads aren’t usually funny, so, why did we just make some funny razor ads?


By Dan Watts, ECD

June 17, 2024 | 6 min read

The OOH ads from Wilkinson Sword’s latest campaign had experts split between head-scratching and laughter. Pablo London’s Dan Watts explains why they took the risk and why the copy sticks with us.

Wilkinson Sword ad

Wilkinson Sword ad

“I don’t get these. What’s so funny about a razor?”

This was a fair enough bit of commentary on social media recently about our recent Wilkinson Sword work and a valid question that’s worth unpacking.

After all, razors and shaving are not inherently funny.

Same with instant pot noodles. Or VW Golfs. They are just things you eat and drive. Just like a razor is something that cuts your hair off.

Why bring comedy into it?

Good question. Remind me chief planner, Mark Sng, why did we make these ads funny? “Because humor is a powerful weapon in driving attention and brand memorability.”

Thanks Mark. Of course.

Wilkinson Sword ad

The more humorous an ad, the more impactful it’s likely to be. There’s data to back this, it’s not me making it up to look smart. It should be obvious from our experience of life - funny is remembered. It gets into culture like nothing else. It binds you with people, places, TV shows, wedding speeches and memories in a way that’s deep-rooted. If you’re a brand having fun, then people buy into that. They want to be part of it. Whether it’s dancing eyebrows for chocolate bars (everyone remembers this Cadbury’s ad) or a man on a horse for a spicy aftershave.

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Which brings us back to razors.

As a young guy, you don’t want to be standing in the mirror staring at your face in a towel next to a chiseled football player. It’s awkward. And a bit creepy. You want to shave with the guys that know about having a good time and making great blades. The best blades in fact. If we need to cut through the clutter of not just our competition but advertising in general, then we need to be remembered for that.

A brand with a clear benefit and heritage is a confident brand. And a confident brand can afford to be witty and self-aware. Wilkinson Sword has been making blades for 250 years. They know what they’re doing. And they’re going to remind you all of a Blade Master who likes to karate kick next to a swan while comparing bad blades to doctors with no training.

You might not like that. Or find it funny. But it’s happening. And it’s on posters as well as films. And with that come the comments.

Wilkinson Sword ad

Ah, the comments. Ok, you might have seen some negative ones somewhere.

By picking a comedic lane and really going for it, you’re going to get the Marmite effect. If you’re doing comedy right, you’re going to split people. We’re seeing this already in the hundreds of responses to the Wilkinson Sword outdoor. For some, it’s the comedic makeover the shaving industry desperately needs, and for others, and I quote, it’s “complete gibberish.”

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Using comedy is a risk. People might get offended. Or not find it amusing. They might complain or ask the question “What’s so funny about a razor?”. It’s understandably safer to do the research-friendly footballer in a towel, turning in the mirror with a product shot. You might even get to meet a celebrity on the shoot.

But if 99% of advertising is ignored, how will you ever get in the 1% that’s remembered without surprising people? Being comedically disruptive or surprisingly entertaining takes a bit of risk. But then so does being dull. In fact, being dull is a far greater risk - you waste all your money, no one notices you, and you only get four likes on LinkedIn.

Just think about that for a second. Four likes.

So “what’s so funny about a razor”? Nothing really. But one thing’s for sure: a razor with a bad blade is like an advert that’s just wallpaper.

And no one wants that.

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