When they’re bad, they’re good.
When they’re awful, they’re even better.
They’ve been around for ages. Shakespeare loved ’em. George Carlin did, too. And so do advertising copywriters – sometimes.
I’m talking puns, of course.
Ad agency creative departments have an unwritten rule against using them, though you’ll find plenty of groan-worthy examples among the award winners in advertising annuals. Perhaps the most celebrated is the classic NYNEX Yellow Pages campaign created by Chiat/Day in the late 80s. In addition to print ads and billboards like the one above, there was a series of tv spots featuring visual puns a-plenty.
GSD&M hasn’t been above a worthy pun in service of a client. After all, once upon a time our tagline for Southwest Airlines was “Just Plane Smart.”
Our hometown loves a
good bad pun, too, as evidenced by Austin’s hosting of the annual O. Henry Pun-Off World Championship, the 34th installation of which takes place this Saturday, May 21, in the heart of downtown. Punslingers from near and far will compete in two contests. For “Punniest of Show,” entrants deliver 90 seconds of good, bad and ugly puns in the form of riddles, songs, sonnets, sermons, poems — you name it. For “Punslingers,” entrants compete in single-elimination rounds punning on selected topics. For example:
JUDGE: The topic is “vegetables.” You each have five seconds to make a pun. Go!
CONTESTANT 1: Well, lettuce proceed, then.
CONTESTANT 2: Okay, but I’m gonna beet you.
CONTESTANT 1: Ha! I don’t carrot all.
CONTESTANT 2: Orange you glad you don’t? ‘Cause you’re gonna lose.
JUDGE: An orange is not a vegetable. You’re disqualified. Peas leave the stage.
If you’ve never bean, I encourage you to turnip to laugh, groan and root for the contestants. I yam going to be there with my 11-year-old, who’s spinach-ing to squash the competition with the corniest puns she can radish out. If nothing else, it’s a great way to kale some time…