Advertising With Humour: A Pragmatic and Semantic Investigation

Advertising With Humour: A Pragmatic and Semantic Investigation

Lorena Clara Mihăeş (University of Bucharest, Romania) and Manuela Epure (Spiru Haret University, Romania)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5778-4.ch010

Abstract

The present chapter considers verbal humour used in advertising as a rhetorical device. To understand humour, one needs to make inferences by resorting to background knowledge (the domain of pragmatics), and to knowledge of the linguistic code (the domain of semantics). This endeavour examines a series of successful marketing campaigns for ROM, a Romanian chocolate bar brand, and tries to analyse the humorous elements they feature from a pragmatic and semantic perspective. Dwelling on ingrained prejudices and stereotypes, the advertisements for the Romanian chocolate bar have managed to attract attention by humorously exaggerating and sometimes by shocking the audience, compelling them to take action and share their opinions on the advertised matters on various websites. This strategy, which employs humour extensively, has turned out to be successful and, as a consequence, the brand's sales have dramatically increased.
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Background

What makes us laugh? What is humour, after all? What are the conditions that a discourse should meet in order to be considered funny and humorous? The definitions are numberless, and, most probably, one which is all-encompassing does not exist (Weinberger & Gulas, 1992). The nature of definitions varies according to the vantage point from which humour is defined. Seen as a type of communication, it is believed to engender a positive emotional reaction (Crawford, 1994; Romero & Cruthirds, 2006; Hurren, 2006). This type of approach, however, leaves out the traits and characteristics which make a piece of discourse humorous. As a matter of fact, for a text to be humorous, it needs to communicate incongruous meanings, which will trigger amusement in the audience (Gervais and Wilson, 2005; Martin, 2007; Banas, Dunbar, Rodriguez, & Liu, 2011).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Prejudice: Preconceived judgements, opinions or convictions about certain facts.

ROM Chocolate Bar: A chocolate bar brand owned by Kandia Dulce, the largest Romanian producer of sweets, established in 1948.

Script: A cognitive repository of commonsense conventionalised knowledge about a certain concept.

Semantics: The study of meaning in language.

Cooperative Principle: A description of how people should achieve effective communication in a conversation.

Humour: A message evincing certain incongruities, verbal skill or ingenuity which can cause amusement.

Pragmatics: The study of language in use.

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