The Prevalence and Influence of the Combination of Humor and Violence in Super Bowl Commercials

The growing concern over violence in the media has led to vast amounts of research examining the effects of violent media on viewers. An important subset of this research looks at how humor affects this relationship. While research has considered this subset in television programming, almost no research has explored this in the context of advertising. This paper builds on the little research that exists by examining the effects of combining humor and violence, as well as the theoretical approaches that underlie these effects. A content analysis is conducted to identify the prevalence of violence, humor, and the combination of these elements in a longitudinal sample of Super Bowl commercials (2005, 2007, and 2009). Further, we investigate the relationship between the joint occurrence of humor and violence in ads and ad popularity. We conclude that violent acts are rampant in these commercials and that many acts are camouflaged by the simultaneous presence of humor, especially in the most popular ads.

Journal of Advertising
Blackford, Benjamin J.; Gentry, James; Harrison, Robert L.; Carlson, Les
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