Humour appeals must vary in US, Mexico

2 October 2014

NEW YORK: Consumers in Mexico and the US respond differently to varying types of humour in TV ads, reflecting distinct cultural traits in these markets, according to a paper in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).

Valerie L. Wang and Yong J. Wang (Ohio University), Kevin W. Cruthirds (University of Texas at Brownsville), and Jie Wei (National University of Singapore), conducted a cross-cultural study into this matter in their paper, 'Enculturated' Pleasure: A Study in Multicultural Engagement. How Do Mexican and US Consumers Respond to Humorous Advertising Differently?

Panels of 160 people in a northern Mexican city and 172 people in a northeastern US city were recruited to test four TV ads that epitomised certain kinds of humour: affiliative, aggressive, self-enhancing and self-defeating.

"Mexican consumers' attitudes toward the self-enhancing and self-defeating humour style were significantly higher than those of US consumers, whereas their attitudes toward the affiliative humour style and the aggressive humour style were significantly lower," the authors discovered.

According to their analysis, these differences drew on the personal styles of humour most commonly utilised by the participants in the research.

"The affiliative humour style and the self-defeating humour style were both demonstrated to be more likely used by Mexican consumers than by their US counterparts," the authors continued.

"On the contrary, the use of the aggressive humour style and the self-enhancing humour style was significantly higher for US consumers."

Among the further findings of the study was that, despite the variation observable between the Mexican and American contributors, humour itself held a largely status weight in both markets.

"US consumers, who are from a more developed economy, expressed a similar level of attitudes toward using humour and humorous advertising as that of Mexican consumers," the JAR paper read.

"The pattern reinforces the global popularity of humour, regardless of economic and cultural backgrounds."

In assessing the implications of their research, the authors suggested multinational brands seeking to advertise in other countries may want to consider distinctive cultural triggers and avoid standardising humorous ads.

"Adaptation can be the better answer in communication with targeted country markets given the significant differences in humour styles preferred by different cultural groups," they wrote.

"That is to say, the central question of adaptation or localisation is not whether humorous advertising should be used; rather, it is about the selection of more effective culturally bound humour styles."

Data sourced from Warc