SOAP BOX: Using male jokes to reach women is just laughable

Who said a woman can’t get pleasure from something soft? Not me.

Who said a woman can’t get pleasure from something soft? Not


As an ice-cream junkie I know just how much pleasure can be had from a

tub of soft-scoop. As for finding a man, ’If I want something rough on

my chest’, well, personally I find star jumps rougher! So if I’ve failed

to be tickled by the recent Gossard Glossies campaign is it down to my

lack of humour or simply that Gossard has demonstrated that when it

comes to using humour in marketing, the male perspective has a habit of

dominating - even when the target audience is 100% female?

But before marketers moodily retire complaining that girls don’t have a

sense of humour, let me assure you it is worth persevering. It’s a lot

easier with men because generally what makes one man laugh, makes all

men laugh. Women find very different things funny; one woman’s

side-splitting gag may be awarded 180 points for ’groanworthiness’ by

another. Perhaps because of this difficulty the approach has been to

take men as a ready-made template and attempt to force a fit. The launch

of Minx magazine, in essence just a female version of Loaded, is an


If you’re a man, I know exactly what you’re thinking. You are

considering penning an acerbic letter to Marketing claiming, ’Ms Spriggs

has fallen into the trap of generalisation; doesn’t she appreciate there

as many types of men as there are grains of sand in the desert?’ The

whole point of generalisation is that, with a few exceptions, they apply

to most people. If you are in any doubt about the difference between the

sexes, take a look at that humour barometer, the greetings card.

Funny cards targeted at men work on one level. They draw on a consensus

view of life that promotes laddish and strangely impersonal values:

inhuman alcohol consumption, heroic sexual performance, unfeasibly large

sex organs and, of course, sport. Those aimed at women take a wry look

at the female experience. It’s all a lot more intimate and

self-deprecating and the topics are wider ranging: juggling babies and

jobs, ladders in tights, fat thighs, bingeing on chocolate.

Successful humour has to filter through from the bottom up. Loaded grew

naturally out of a groundswell of laddish humour and has strong roots in

contemporary male culture. So there’s no point in trying to use it as a

model for a female audience. If marketers are to have the same success

with women they need to stop assuming they know what is funny and start

listening to what actually makes women laugh.

Despite the successful advance of women in the industry, it’s still, for

the most part, men who make the majority of marketing decisions. In

today’s hyper-developed marketplace, using humour to market to women

probably represents one of the few remaining areas of clear blue water -

when was the last time you saw a funny sanpro ad? But if marketers don’t

take the trouble to get to know the female sense of humour it could turn

out to be a Bermuda Triangle for brands.


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