Your last word says it all: risk. This question is really about risk management, and calculating what the damage would be if it failed, or possible gain from failing. Wait? What? Gain from failing? Yes. There can be a gain in failing.
Frankie goes to Hollywood, a brittish music band from the 1980's made a slightly provocative video realeasing their infamous Relax video. Today this looks like nothing, but back then it was not politically correct. The video producers knew it, and took the risk realeasing it. It got banned by the British Broadcasting Cooperation (BBC), and radios started playing the song like crazy. As a consequence of the ban, Frankie goes to Hollywood made a fortune.
More recent examples of the same kind in the music industry is the label Parental Advisory. The only effect that has on user behaviour is that youngsters know what to buy to annoy parents and relatives and at the same time impress fellow friends. I think non of Eminems song doesn't have a that label.
- But this is not a subject only related to the music industry. This is also seen in other areas, such as health and cosmetics. Old Spice made the "man on the horse" commercial, which itself was very successful with 47 million views on Youtube alone.
- It was so successful that another company in the same industry had to relate to it in their commercial. This was of course a big success to Old Spice, since they where mentioned by a competing company. It's not hard to read the frustration from competitors when they had to put this post up:
Now, users who didn't see the Old Spice commercial in the first place, or didn't remember it wouldn't get the Axe commercial. But would it have a negative affect on them? This is disputed as some say the company would suffer from not connecting to its customers. I disagree on that notice, since I believe more in Michael Porter who wrote that all visible activity a company does is a benifit. User who doesn't get it just move on and forget about it. As they do on other commercial not getting to them. No harm done.
So this is not uncommon behavior, using sarcasm, irony and humor to be funny. But what you need to think about is what it makes your product look like. Which image will it have after a successful campain? Do you like that image, or do you have trouble relating to it? Your answers there will give you the answer how to sell your product.
Is it relevant? No, not at all - but it sells products all right. Who hasn't seen Jonathan Ive, cheif designer of Apple, talk his pants down on the new iPhone design. It's hilarious to watch, and still we buy the iPhone. Do I feel bad about it? No. Does it relate to the product? That this piece of solid beautifly crafted plastic is still a phone (iPhone 5C)? Not in my book.
Is it worth the risk? Most definately, otherwise it hadn't been done. But you need to make sure your product delivers what it promises, funny or not.