Practical Advertising Lessons from Impractical Jokers


Betty here, one of the creative directors at SRH.

I was surprised to see that among the plethora of speakers at New York Advertising Week were Sal, Murray and Q of Impractical Jokers fame. If you’re not familiar, then you haven’t flipped on truTV in the past decade where they appear to be the only program on, like, ever. A typical episode might have them pitching fake products or attaching balloons to unsuspecting grocery store shoppers. As they approach their 300th episode, the giggling trio took the stage as the final panel at this year's event.

So what would Impractical Jokers have to say about advertising? More than I expected actually. The way they approach the creative process is not all that different from the way admakers do. Are they juvenile, offensive, problematic to some? Probably so, but the deeper topics they spoke about did align with many things people at Advertising Week could relate to.

Here's a little bit about how they got here and what they had to say.

“We did so much work on so many projects that failed,” said Sal Vulcano. One that didn’t was a concept previously called “Mission Uncomfortable.” The show, which would eventually become Impractical Jokers, was actually devised over a lunch table with a major opportunity looming. In order to have something to pitch, they quickly filmed several different pranks in Manhattan on their cell phones. Having this in-pocket content eliminated the dreaded “call-back” step, and garnered them two viable offers (TruTV and MTV). “It’s just about being there, being prepared, and being ready to seize an opportunity,” he added.

Lesson: Pitch tangible ideas that are ready to execute

Having partnered on projects with some heavy hitters like Universal, Mountain Dew, Kelloggs, Chase, when asked about how they handle the process of partnerships, Murray had this to say, “The first thing we do is listen to what they want, who they’re trying to reach, what they’re trying to do. Then the guys and I brainstorm a bunch of ideas and pitch them our favorite three that we think we could execute really well, in a funny, endearing and authentic way.” Sound familiar?

Lesson: Listen, brainstorm and refine

When asked about the importance of authentically aligning with other brands in partnerships, Sal says, “If it’s not a good fit, people see through that.” He went on to suggest that when partnering with a brand who might approach something slightly different than you would, apply your own lens to it. That way you can maintain your integrity while delivering something original and authentic.

Lesson: Paint with your own brush and stay true to it

What makes memorable ads? It’s humor, says Brian Quinn, aka Q. “I just want to feel good for a few seconds, so if I can get that from a Jersey Mike’s commercial, I’ll take it. If you can make me laugh I’m almost brand loyal at that point.”

“And music,” added Sal. “It’s a way to make a connection in 30 seconds. How are you going to make an impact that quickly? It’s either going to be something horrible or it’s going to be something funny. I don’t remember ‘regular’ commercials."

Lesson: Make it memorable and avoid “regular”

Having bonded in high school over a shared sense of humor, Impractical Jokers are proof that pursuing what you love is the key to success. Tap into the emotion you want to convey and over deliver in a way that's unique and memorable and you’ll catch your audience off guard.

No joke.

—Betty Strigens