Humour in advertising is long-established, but whether such appeals travel across cultures is debatable. Two studies investigated the impact of country and individual-level cultural differences on the use and effectiveness of humorous advertising in the United States (USA) and People’s Republic of China (PRC). The first study examines current practice and replicates previous findings that certain humour mechanisms (incongruency-resolution contrasts) are universal across cultures. The second study examines audience effects for a specific humour type (aggressive). At the national level findings are contrary to expected with Chinese showing higher perceived humour for aggressive themes than did Americans. At the individual level, cultural values best explain the varying effectiveness of aggressive humour appeals. Interestingly, the findings of both studies show that what advertisers practice is not always in line with audience expectations. Implications on how humour can transfer successfully across cultures is discussed, and directions for future research offered.
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