Perhaps it’s time to start taking puns seriously. Admittedly, that sounds like an oxymoron; a contradiction in terms. A pun is often wantonly dismissed as a whimsical bit of word play. Some would even go as far as saying that they’re the antithesis of a serious statement.
I, on the other hand, believe in the power of the pun. In certain circumstances, a razor sharp pun will cut through the clutter. Some are simply unforgettable. Take, for example, The Simpsons’ hairdressers Curl Up and Dye, or their Taj Mah-All-You-Can-Eat Indian restaurant; they’ve stuck with me for nigh on a decade. When it comes to standing the test of time, Alfred Hitchcock wasn’t lying when he said “Puns are the highest form of literature”…
I say that sincerely, though. Puns can have a higher purpose than simply instigating chortles and guffaws. Only recently, we’ve seen puns parading our streets during protests against the new ‘Leader of the Free World’. At Cherry Tiger, our collective social media feeds have been overflowing with photos of cardboard signs, boisterous banners and quoted quips. The most shared ones were positively pun-tastic:
Trust the numbers; the retweets don’t lie. Puns can have serious pulling power. All it took was a piece of cardboard, some colouring pens, and an instagramming insurgent for these witty individuals to gain the kind of social media coverage people pay more than a pretty penny for.
Do you think that any one of them woke up that morning thinking that their makeshift motto would be snapped and shared around the world? Yet when you combine a pun with a purpose, people can’t help but take notice. It was the seminal satirist Alexander Pope who praised the pun for its ability to “speak twice as much by being split”.
Puns can make you laugh, as well as think; they pay for themselves twice over. At a time when £18.3 billion is spent every year on all forms of advertising and marketing – with just 4% remembered positively, 7% remembered negatively and 89% not noticed or remembered at all – where’s the harm in being playful with your copy. What’s worse than being ignored?
At Cherry Tiger, we know that for your voice to be heard, and to be remembered, your message needs to stand out from the crowd. That’s why my fellow copywriters and I refuse to shy away from anything, especially not puns. They’ve been the bedrock of some brilliant ad campaigns, so why shouldn’t we use them today?
Not to mention that Shakespeare was estimated to have used over 3,000 puns in his plays. And if they’re good enough for Ol’ Bill, they’re good enough for me.