Catching up with Tim Washer

May 5, 2015

BMA15 presenter and executive producer of rich media marketing at Cisco

By Chuck Kapelke

Tim Washer is not your average content marketer. An experienced comedian, he has appeared on HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and the Onion Sports Network, and he studied comedy under Amy Poehler.

Becoming a father nudged him back toward corporate work, but he found a way to apply his wit to business, first at IBM, and now as executive producer of rich media marketing at Cisco. In 2013, he helped produce a Webby Award-nominated series called the “Network Effect,” focused on how the Internet enables growth in developing countries. We asked Washer, a featured speaker at BMA15 [], for some insights on humor and video in the business-to-business space.

What do you believe is the role of humor in video marketing?

Humor’s purpose is to get attention, humanize your brand, and hopefully get the person to share. Done well, humor in business-to-business is one of the most powerful ways to connect with an audience. Unfortunately, it is rarely done well. But when your products and services are complex, when you cut through the noise and make someone laugh, you’ve created an intimate connection.

Are there times when humor isn’t appropriate?

There are cases when you need to be sensitive, where an approach other than humor might work better. It just depends on the circumstances. There are industries, like healthcare or financial services, where you probably need to be more careful.

Have you ever had comedy fall flat?

Comedy is very subjective. I think for every one of my videos, there have been people who’ve thought, “That’s not really my cup of tea.” That’s fine, especially if you’re trying to do this globally, as not all seven billion people are going to find it hilarious. Once you start making a video for everybody, it’s not going to be funny anymore because you try to pull out specifics and generalize, and that’s a big mistake.

What is your process for developing a concept?

First, we try to understand the key objectives and messages. It’s good to focus on the problem we’re solving for the customer. Much of comedy comes from pain. People always say, “Your brand’s not funny.” But, it’s not about your brand; there’s humor in the problem you’re solving. Look at the customer’s problem, and look at the consequences of that problem. For comedy you want to exaggerate the consequences. What if that problem was even bigger? What if it went unchecked for years? What would the pain be? Now you’re not only giving the gift of laughter, but also showing empathy.

Any other important advice you would like to share?

Most important is to get [the right] team. Don’t do it internally if you don’t have people who have comedy experience. You want people who know how to write and film comedy. It’s good to get at least one comedy writer, preferably two, because comedy is so social. It’s important to find people with good chemistry. Comedy by committee does not work. You can go to a good improv theater and hire folks to do it for you.


"Catching up with Tim Washer." Chuck Kapelke. BMA Buzz. 5/5/15.