Offended by (some) foul language? Skip this post. But if you can take a joke, I promise the lesson is worth the laugh!

Two southern college coeds meet up for lunch during summer break after a year away.

The first young lady starts telling the second about all the wonderful things her daddy has bought for her since graduation.

“See that convertible Audi parked out front? My Daddy bought me that to go off to college with.”

Second young lady says, “Well how nice.”

Then the first pulls out her phone, sharing pictures of her spring break spent in Bermuda with her sorority sisters.

“Only a few of us got to go on this trip, seeing how it was so expensive, but Daddy said it was no problem.”

Second young lady, “Well how nice.”

Oh, and next semester I’m going to study abroad.

“Well how nice.”

“Well now, I’ve been going on and on about Daddy and my last year; what have you been up to?”

“Well my Daddy sent me to finishing school before I started classes at Ol’ Miss.”

“Finishing school? Why’d he do that?”

“So I’d learn to say ‘Well how nice’ instead of ‘Fuck You!’”

Now, that joke isn’t exactly a knee slapper. At least not at first.

Yet it becomes funny for the audience after the fact.

Why?

Because “How nice” is transformed into group code for “Fuck you.”

And I guarantee that most groups will end up saying “How nice” to each other shortly after hearing this joke, probably while wearing a big shit-eating grin.

This inside joke bonds the audience, both with each other and the teller.

The coded language actually helps to establish the tribe, bonded around common values.

In this case, it’s valuing modesty while out-grouping the pretentious and ostentatious.

Of course, none of this is explicit in the joke.

And that’s what makes it powerful.

The subtext not only draws you into the young lady’s conversation, it forces your active participation.

YOU connected the dots, not the teller, and you actively joined the tribe when chuckled at that connection.

Then you became further initiated when you used the coded language yourself (or laughed at its use by another tribe member).

Applying This to Advertising

Good ads use dialogue, drama, humor, and subtext to entertain the audience.

A spoonful of entertainment helps the messaging go down.

Great ads, on the other hand, use the entertainment to carry the message.

They don’t give you entertainment and then slip in the messaging.

The persuasive message is baked into the entertainment.

To understand the story — to laugh at the joke — is to swallow the persuasion.

And truly masterful ads do this while providing coded language that becomes part of the audience’s pop-culture lexicon.

Can you hear me now?

Do your shirts have ring around the collar?

Ever tell someone to “L’eggo my Eggo?

They say when you explain a joke, it ceases to be funny.

But you’re not after laughs; you’re after great advertising, and this is a secret path to that.

Get it?

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