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Ways to Create a Great Ad #9: Bathos

In '100 Ways to Create a Great Ad' Tim Collins offers an overview of a hundred tried-and-tested approaches used by advertising creatives to create great advertising campaigns. These advertising techniques can lead to brilliant commercials. Tim has selected 10 of these to be featured by D&AD, which means there's 90 more in his book.

D&AD Great Ad Campaigns
Switching tone of voice halfway through a headline can create funny executions, like this one for Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

Bathos is an abrupt transition from the serious to the silly or the grand to the commonplace for comic effect

In TV advertising, a pompous speech or voiceover will often be deflated by a colloquial word or phrase. In a British ad for the alcoholic drink Campari, a foppish man asks a woman, ‘Were you truly wafted here from paradise?’ The woman replies, ‘No, Luton Airport.’ Her response became a popular catchphrase and was even turned into a hit single by the group Cats U.K.

Starbucks - Glen

Abrupt changes of tone can be very funny on TV. The lyrics of the track in this Starbucks ad switch from macho to commonplace.

In the ‘Glen’ spot by Starbucks, an office worker is followed around by the soft-rock group Survivor, who perform ‘Eye of the Tiger’. The amended lyrics of the track, which originally featured in Rocky III, flit from manly to mundane: ‘Burning the candle on the way to the top / He knows one day he just could become supervisor!’

D&AD Great Ad Campaigns
Cath Kidston, In Book / Art Direction / Press Advertising / 2006 / Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy / Combine bathos with the rule of three and you get this headline formula. Two sensible benefits followed by a silly one.

Headlines often switch tone halfway through, as in the Mike’s Hard Lemonade execution ‘I watched you from afar in the park. You had me arrested.’ Another popular headline format is to list two sensible details followed by a third, whimsical one. An ad for a Millets floral tent featured the line ‘Delight Children. Impress Friends. Confuse Bumble Bees.’ An ad for the Museum of Childhood read, ‘Get here by train, by bus or by the power of Greyskull’.

If you're interested in learning how to write for advertising, why not take a look at our advertising copywriting training course with Will Awdry.

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