Why do black shops suck at the funny?

The commercial above was done by McCann Erickson, NY. I had hoped it was the African American effort in the Verizon "Maps" campaign. When I initially saw the spot I actually chuckled a bit. When I saw it the second time and paid better attention I laughed even more. Which for most African American targeted advertising is a very rare occurrence. The actor's response at the end is well executed and just funny.

The irony is one of the few things African Americans have been allowed to do fully in this country is be funny. Some might even say be buffoons to the delight of others. That is another blog post and maybe even another blog all together. But when you think of humor in America -- and I mean well heeled, prodigious comedic out-put, you gotta look at the African American canon of work.

So why the big disconnect when it comes to any African American amusement in advertising? (ah, appropriately accommodating assonance). My first thoughts, as always, goes to budgeting limitations and the lack of experimentation allowed in multicultural advertising period. But I still believe the right kind of "funny" goes a long way toward cementing a campaigns message in the mind of the consumer.

I also know some (not all) of the people in multi-cultural have an unfair weight of responsibility of disproportionate expectations of budgeting to sales results. The AA conundrum of being "twice" as good to get the same acknowledgement remains. But still we don't produce that many truly "funny" commercials.

Now of course we are not a people built entirely of Richard Pryors, Wanda Sykes and Dave Chappelles, but I know some insanely funny black people who work in advertising. Why doesn't it translate? It may be a matter of the best work going through a filter of brand managers who are "culturally clueless." I have been a part of teams who have presented to non-black brand managers who couldn't begin to grasp the concepts and contextual resonance of the simplest of ideas. Yet those persons could not only kill our ideas they could also dictate what we "should do." But I can't leave the blame there.

Why do African American Agencies struggle with humor in commercials? Why do black shops suck at the funny?

Agency: McCann Erickson, NY
Chief Creative Officer: Joyce King Thomas
Executive Creative Director: George Dewey
Group CD: Chris Quillen
Group CD/copywriter: Jesse Potack
Group CD/art director: Benjamin Vendramin
Executive producer: Michele Ferone
Producer: Jessica Coccaro
Production Company: Furlined, NY
Directors: Speck / Gordon
DP: Anthony Wolberg
Exec Producer: David Thorne
Editing House: Cut and Run
Editor: TG Herrington
Special Effects: Charlex
Music: Thwak Music, NY and Ramblin' Man, NY
Audio Post: Steve Rosen, Sonic Union, NY
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