Ads that use comedic violence need to carefully assess their level of perceived realism, and target media destinations favoured by consumers who can be described as “katagelasticists” and “gelotophiles”, according to an article published in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).

Malgorzata (Mag) Karpinska-Krakowiak, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Łódź in Poland, discussed this subject in a paper entitled, Gotcha! Realism of comedic violence and its impact on brand responses: What’s so funny about that bloody ad? The moderating role of disposition to laughter.

“In the current research, highly violent humor was observed to be directly linked with less positive brand attitudes,” she wrote in describing one major finding.

Highly violent humour was “also found to interact with another variable”, in the form of individuals’ perceptions of realism, reported Karpinska-Krakowiak.

Specifically, people exposed to comedic violences are likely to “perceive a violent stimulus as inauthentic but generally will respond to it negatively,” she added.

The careful moderation of realism in advertising “may be more effective in stimulating desired responses to humorous violence,” the analysis suggested.

A case in point: acknowledging the unrealism of an ad (for instance by saying, “It’s a commercial”) can minimise the negative impacts of using violent humour.

The analysis drew on a range of different studies, which included the coding of hundreds of videos by marketing scholars to assess their use of comedy, violence and overall sense of realism.

Further studies included a pre-testing of videos with 242 consumers and a separate panel of 302 consumers, with both groups focused on the perceived violence in the selected videos.

Another group of 279 consumers who used to test the effectiveness of realism in videos with comedic violence, ranging from “highly violent” humour to “low violent” humour.

Karpinska-Krakowiak’s research also examined the role of katagelasticism, the name for the joy of laughing at others, gelotophobia, the fear of being laughed at, and gelotophilia, the joy of being laughed at.

“People who enjoy being laughed at and who like laughing at others were observed to respond more favourably to comedic violence than non-gelotophiles or non-katagelasticists, particularly when advertising depictions were highly realistic,” said Karpinska-Krakowiak

“From a practical perspective, these findings may be helpful in more efficient media choices, placements, and tactics. For example, for genuine presentations of violent humour, it is better to select media vehicles, such as social networking sites or platforms, that likely will be used by katagelasticists and gelotophiles.”

Sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by WARC staff