When Being an A**hole is Good

Today’s guest post is by Peppercommer Lia LoBello.

Martin-Agency-Donate-Life-worlds-biggest-asshole-muralRegular readers of RepMan know that the use of comedy to make a strong point is a strategy we fully embrace at Peppercomm. In today’s outrage culture, however, where the Internet is so very quick to taketh away, attempts at humor can pose a huge at a risk. However, when it works – it works. And this recent spot by The Martin Agency for Donate Life is the perfect example.

Donate Life is an organization that aims to raise awareness for organ donation. Not exactly a topic ripe for a good laugh. But the agency felt that the main target – millennial men – needed to be reached in a way that would resonate with them. So the idea for an ad centered around crude humor was born.

The result is a spot that follows Coleman F. Sweeney, aka “The World’s Biggest Asshole” through his day. From throwing a bottle of urine out his car window while speeding to shooting at small animals, Coleman is as bad as they come. The ad does a brilliant job setting this up in a way that’s both cringe-inducing and hilarious. But when Coleman drops dead, the ad takes a twist – and that’s when you might want to reach for a tissue. While he might be a jerk, Coleman’s liver, heart, tendons, corneas – they give life. Coleman may be an asshole, but he’s also an organ donor.

The spot is brilliant in its simplicity, use of dark humor, and execution. That balance is hard to achieve. See this list, sadly one of many since the Internet never forgets, which is a painful compilation of fails from brands with a lot more name recognition, and which should have known better.

This spot works for a few reasons. One – the humor is not pointed at a real class of people (race, gender, body type, etc.) It’s making fun of assholes, which is a type of person, yes, but not a class that deserves protection. No offense, assholes. Second, it quickly turns from the negative toward the positive, lingering just enough time on both sides. Third, the overall message is for something that can provide real social good. It isn’t just a push for an unhealthy food product or overpriced electronic, which always makes a poor joke seem especially unnecessary.

Over the years, Peppercomm has received a lot of questions on the effectiveness of using humor to tell your story. To this we always say, you tell us. When has a good joke, that elicits a real laugh, made you like someone less? If the choice came down to doing business with two people, one whom can inject a little humor into the day-to-day and one who can’t – which one do you go with? Now we also have this ad in our back pocket. If at the end, your eyes are still dry, you haven’t cracked a smile, or you don’t want to donate a kidney…well maybe you’re…

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