Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Advertising Ourselves

I’m always fascinating by advertising because it gives you a clear indication of the state of the culture. How? Simple. The job of an advertiser is to make their product appeal to people who are likely to buy the product. To achieve that, they do a careful analysis of who their potential customers are, and then they try to produce ads which get those customers to associate the product with the good things about their lifestyles. For example, products aimed at blacks or women or fundamentalist Christians or farmers or children will try to determine what it is that appeals to each of those groups and will then use that to make their product seem like it belongs. The result is that advertises have provided us with a continuing treatise on the various segments of society.

This treatise is better than any polling, any study, or any expert analysis. We know this because advertising only continues so long as it works. If the targeted consumers don’t respond with their dollars, the ads stop and are changed until something is found which does work, which then gets copied. And how people spend their money is a much more accurate measure of what they are thinking than how they respond to polls, which requires no actual commitment. Consequently, advertising gives us an incredibly accurate look into the mindset of various segments of society.

So what can we say about society? Everyone wants to have fun. The middle class is looking for value. The rich want subtlety in their products. Women trust other women more than they trust men. Youngish white males belong in frats. Kids are obnoxious, but not as obnoxious as they were a decade ago. Americans of all stripes are deeply patriotic. Socialism doesn’t sell. Older people care about the longer term, which is actually why they’re more conservative, and young people care about fitting in. And the herd instinct is not only alive and well, it dominates consumer behavior at all levels. . . you just need to know what herd you’re in.

Movie trailers are the same. We like emotional extremes. It’s not enough just to succeed, you need to be beat all the odds for your success to be worthwhile. We’re big on sex, no matter what kind of movie, explosions and one-liners. Most importantly, however, our values remain deeply conservative: self-help, honor, loyalty, and a healthy distrust of government.

What are you thoughts about some of your favorite (or least favorite) ads and what they tell us?


K said...

I dislike advertising in general for several reasons. One is that I dislike people I don't know attempting to manipulate me for their own reasons.

Second, and more importantly,the length of time we have on the old mortal coil is finite. The less time my mind is being is forced to pay attention to a commercial message is the more time my own free thoughts get thought. Each of our free thoughts represents a time hack in our life span. If being forced to give up what amounts to a portion of my life, then I should get something in return for it. Very very few commercial messages provide this exchange and it represents a theft on their part.This is why I rarely watch TV without being able to blip out the commercials, and why advertising in theaters, where you are forced to sit and watch for no return, annoys me enough to cut down my theater attendance considerably.

There are people who don't mind watching commercials and even enjoy it. More power to them, but I wonder if they thought about it
if they really value their though process that low and what that says about their lives.

Tennessee Jed said...

The Hidden Persuaders is a fascinating book written more than 50 years ago. It spoke of subliminal messages being sent. Maybe yes, maybe no. To be effective, an ad needs to be clear in it's message, although clear can be subtle. For some brands that are already iconic, just keeping the name out fron by doing P.R. work can be effective. Even ads that are annoying can be effective if it is a product people will ultimately need. Brand recognition, again, rules. My biggest gripe is that ads on t.v. get sold in blocks of weeks. You will get bombarded with it; then just when you are mercifully free from having to see it, another cycle kicks in. Sometimes, clever ads backfire. You laugh your ass off, but when challenged to name the product, you gain a look of non-recognition.

Since they are in the news, I'll give a shout out to Chick-fil-A. Why?? I've loved cows ever since I was little. Classic division: Alka Seltzer's "I can't believe I ate the whole thing" commercial. Funny, iconic, and no mistaking the message.

tryanmax said...

K, stab me through the heart! There are sensitive souls here who work in the industry. (i.e. me) Believe me when I say we are not as nefarious as we are taken for. Our goal is simple, to get your attention for a moment in the hopes that you will think of a particular product when the need for it arises.

As to the value of your time, advertising increases it significantly. (Bear with me, now.) Without advertising, virtually all forms of entertainment would increase in cost dramatically.

The full-color 120-page glossy magazine you pick up in the supermarket for $5? Without advertisers, you'd be paying close to the same price as a hard-bound novel. And you don't even have to look at those ads.

Broadcast television, now there's an entire field of entertainment (regardless what you think of its quality) that is available to you absolutely free of charge. Your price of admission is to merely tolerate the occasional commercial interruption. You can go to the bathroom if you like. We can't stop you.

Cable TV is a racket, I will grant you that. Most of the programming on it couldn't survive if it weren't bundled. But that's not exactly the fault of advertisers.

And, frankly, I think pre-show previews at the theater are a bit of a service. I love movies, and often the first (and sometimes only) place I hear of upcoming releases is during the preview segment. (I will also grant that Coke advertising to a captive audience is a bit silly, though.)

The bottom line is this, advertising makes it possible for you to access, in terms of affordability, a much wider array of entertainment options than you could reach if it were absent. If you don't like it, then just think of them as the price you pay for cheap amusement. Because, literally, that's what it is.

tryanmax said...

BTW, I love "The Most Interesting Man in the World" ads. Brilliant!

BIG MO said...

tryanmax - your spot-on comments remind me of a brief conversation I had with a newspaper ad salesman many moons ago when I was an editor for that paper. He said "Without my ads, no one would read this paper." I replied, "Without my news, no one would see your ads." We were both right. Except nowadays, nobody sees either the ads or the news, as that paper has shriveled to almost nothing.

AndrewPrice said...

K, I don't tend to watch advertising either when I can avoid it, but when I do I typically spend my time looking for the hidden messages about society. One thing I can absolutely say is that I have never been motivated to buy a product based on an advertisement.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I don't believe in subliminal messages having the power to make you do something you don't want. BUT I do believe that you can create associations. For example, if your drink is shown with athletes, people will begin to see it as an athletic drink. If it's seen with children, it will come to be seen as a children's drink.

I agree about too many ads backfiring. I'm amazed how often I've seen an ad I enjoyed, but couldn't even remember what the product was the moment the ad was finished. And you're right about the repetition. Funny ads in particular become annoying when they are shown repeatedly.

On the classic ad division, I'm amazed how many slogans have made it into the popular culture so that people remember them, even if they haven't been used in decades.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Excellent points.

Advertising does serve many purposes. I had an economics professor way back who made a very interesting point that advertising is a form of bonding. He said that what Coke or Pepsi or whoever was doing is very publicly investing a lot of money into their brand because that way people would know that they are offering high quality. The idea is that the public would know that they can't afford to waste all that money, so all the advertising becomes a promise that they won't do anything to squander what they've spent. It's like a form of offering a hostage, i.e. all the money you spent, to ensure performance.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Those are brilliant ads! I enjoy them too.

What impresses me the most though, is the ending. He doesn't say, "this is all I drink" because that sounds fake. Instead, he says, "I don't always drink beer, but when I do I PREFER Dos Equis." That's a brilliant tag line.

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, There is absolutely a symbiotic relationship there. As an aside, I know lots of people who only buy the paper for the coupons or ads.

BIG MO said...

I hate (truly) most commercials that portray men as sheep, dopes, dolts and easily satisfied, because they reflect what **radical** feminism has done to the image of manhood in this country. For example, if I'm remembering this right, a Hardee’s ad campaign showed men unable to open a cereal box or use a microwave, and said that “Without us, some men would starve.” Ha, ha.

On the whole, I think general audience commercials these days reflect the desire to be entertained. That’s why big bucks are spent for slivers of broadcast time during the Super Bowl (I hate, hate, hate that the Super Bowl has become less about football and more about ads and the half-time show, but that’s a whole different complaint.)

But effective ads have to be more than just memorable entertainment; they have to move products. Remember the Taco Bell Chihuahua with the tag line “Yo quiero Taco Bell” from the late 1990s? Apparently, Taco Bell ended the campaign because the quite popular pooch did not move as many tacos than hoped for.

And remember the famous “cat herder” commercial from the 2000 Super Bowl? Great, hilarious ad – but can you name the product or company? Probably 100 people out of 100 couldn’t. (It was Electronic Data Systems).

Volkswagen’s kid Darth Vader ad was hilarious, but I enjoyed it as entertainment, not because I was shopping for a higher-end car. But when I’m in the market to buy a car, a slick TV ad from the manufacturer won’t influence my decision. A local dealer’s ad might, if he sells (or may sell) what I’m looking for and has a decent reputation. I devoured the Sunday paper’s automotive section 15-20 years ago looking at the car ads. Nowadays, though, I’ll surf the net, go kick the tires, talk to people who have the type of car I want. My wife and I did this recently: we found what we wanted on the net and then went to the dealer to buy it.

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, I agree. I think times are changing on this issue, but certainly in the past couple decades, ads have attacked men as incompetent. That drives me nuts. It's pure political correctness.

Luxury car ads are interesting to me because they are so ineffective in my opinion. They all use silver cars, which all look alike, they all use similar music and similar aspirations. That means I can rarely tell you what the car was that was being advertised and the ads are never memorable. My default position seems to be that these are all Lexus ads, because they all seem to be mimicking early Lexus ads. Total waste.

Individualist said...


For my economics class we had to do an analysis of Hulu and there were some interesting things w3e found out.

1) Hulu considers its main competitor to be illegal downloads off a bit torrent server. They provide a free service with minimal advertizing that you put up with because it is not illegal, requires less searching and is easier.

2) Hulu is a consortium company owned by serveral of teh major networks that provide it the content of which it has to pay a royalty. there is a big war going on between online (Hulu) and the Networks traditional TV.

Hulu offers more choice and is easier to use. It is the new way and has many pluses for the consumenr over traditional viewing. Hulu could easily replace the traditional networks as a method of deliver all other things being equal.

However it is not equal. There is roughly four to eight times the ad space available on a tranditional show than Hulu. This means that traditional is still more profitable to the providers. For whatever reaqsson the internet shows require less ad time. the counter was put in place to make the ad time mroe palatable.

Thusn there is a change coming in the industry. Thee networks given their druthers would like to abaondon Hulu or other online content altogether. They can't however because the technology is eventually going to pouch people to this format. so a balancing act is maintained by offering older content.

Hulu itself was forced to a hulu plus premium pay option in order to be more profitable. now with the cable companies there is some competition that was not around when we did the project.

I think this change in technology will alter the way the ad industry operates in teh future.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, I think the entire advertising industry is in flux. Technology is changing the way people watch television or read content and it's making it harder for them to get people to actually watch ads. So they need to find a way to adapt or perish.

I think it's interesting that a lot of advertisers are starting to abandon Facebook because they realized that people don't actually read on-line ads. I know I don't. I've gotten remarkably good at just not seeing them when they pop up.

ellenB said...

Andrew, Once again, I'm amazed at the world through your eyes. I see ads as annoying (sorry tryanmax), but you see them as a treatise on humanity. LOL!

Individualist said...


To my mind I think what is going to happen is that less money will be available in the industry for profit. One of the reasons that HULU can't be profitable free only was that the content providers (the partner owners) required royaliteis of I believe 80%.

If they reworked their cost models for building a new show then it could be made into a business that provided a decent return however the ROI's would decrease and the profits for the creators of content would go down.

To make up the difference they would have to reduce production values which probably won't be doable or reduce the amount of money that is paid out to actors, directors and producers in royalties and initial salary.

This may hurt the talent pool that is available and it may make the super rich TV star a thing of the past.

So long as people watch real time shows this will be staved off but it is either get people viewing through the internet to watch more ads or reduce the costs.

Infinity is doing something in between with on demand. There are some shows that the fast forward is turned off and I beleive the ad time is the same however I am not sure how many people watch this way or if they would only put up with it on major shows.

The length of ads may be able to be increased once more people start watching Hulu streanmed to their HD TV since it will look more like a show but we will see.

Individualist said...


Facebook is going to have to do something to shore up their business model to be sure. This will test Zuckerberg's actual business acumen. So far he has been successful based on his ability to create a great product.

To my mind I think that they should go to a paid business pages type model. If people like a commercial site then they see the notifications. IF the companies had a way to link the facebook page to a checkout program or infomercial type blog pages then this might be something worthwhile.

It would mean that Facebook would be relying more on searches. Someone wants to know about refridgerators and Facebook can take them to various sites they sell them Manafacturers like Maytag or retailers like Best Buy. The auto companies like GM may find this more palatable.

People can like the GM facebook page and get notifications on new cars etc. and then can easily link to informercial sites that go over the car specs, allow them to build a car, trhasfer them to agents etc. This is where I think Facebook could be useful. As a sort of online yellow pages/encyclopedia for busisnessses to link to consumers.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ellen! It's all there to be seen. :)

Anthony said...

I think advertising creates awareness but not necessarily demand.

I confess I have been swayed by ads because I've given movies, tv shows and videogames a shot (or ignored them) based on ads, interviews and suchlike.

:) In my defense, when I was a kid I watched plenty of half hour toy commercials such as GI Joe and the Transformers but never really got into either set of toys (I was more into Hot Wheels).

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, I think the real key to the problem is that fewer people are watching television in real time. I don't know anyone anymore who sits down and just watches. They all tape whatever they want to see and watch it at their leisure, or they get whole seasons off of Netflix. And that means people have the means to skip the commercials or avoid them entirely.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, I think the problem with Facebook as a business is that people don't see it as a business, they see it as a free BBS essentially. So the more they try to introduce things you need to pay for, the more likely they will be to lose people.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, I said that very thing to an advertising professor once -- it creates awareness, but not demand. She just about punched me. LOL!

I've honestly never been swayed by an ad because the whole concept doesn't appeal to me. It's like knowing that someone is going to try to mislead you, it becomes very hard to then fall for anything they tell you.

BIG MO said...

Anthony - "I think advertising creates awareness but not necessarily demand."


Any thoughts from anyone about targeted online marketing, where you get ads (not annoying popups) relevant to what you buy and/or search for on the net?

On the one hand, it's helpful, because I actually have clicked through some ads I found appealing ** because ** the product, service or notice played on my interests.

On the other hand, it's downright creepy.

K said...

@tryanmax:Well, there are advertisements that are useful - e.g. informing me of a new product or service that could be helpful. I also don't mind truly beautiful or funny commercials - I have a tape of Joe Sedelmaier's commercials which I watch on a regular basis. Those commercials give me back something in exchange for my time. They are also exceedingly rare.

You are correct as to cost reduction - but I find the annoyance and waste of time isn't worth it. I have an extensive DVD collection and watch that instead. It's been shown that movie theater advertising doesn't make any substansive difference in ticket or food prices - they're just doing it to piss me off IMO.

@Andrew: It's funny, but I've never met anyone who has been influenced by a commercial to buy something. I've asked a lot of people.

Either commercials don't work or people don't realize they're being influenced. Considering how much money is being spent on commerials by very smart people, I'm going with the latter.

AndrewPrice said...

Mo, I've occasionally followed the targeted ads, but never with the intent of buying. And I can tell you that the follow-through rate on those is infinitely small.

I tried to advertise my books at a book site. They said to expect a 0.1-0.2% click-through rate from a typical ad and then a 0.1% purchase rate from those who click through. That means a 0.01% purchase rate from an ad, or a 1 in 10,000 rate -- and this was a highly tailored ad sent to people who were looking for legal thrillers!

AndrewPrice said...

K, "they're just doing it to piss me off IMO." LOL!!

On people being influenced, sadly, I have met people who fall for ads. Old people in particular seem to be prone to it and I think that is because they grew up in an age when they were taught to trust what they saw on television.

I have personally noticed that food ad will make me hungry and will cause me to eat more during the day, but that never leads to a craving for a specific product.

Commander Max said...

What I find interesting is being outside the sphere of advertising. Or at least in a position to not see(or hear) that much of it.

Years ago I was getting very sick of cable. Having to watch same set of commercials each break. At that point any content was irrelevant.
Whoever thought it was good advertising, obviously didn't have to endure the repeated messages. But the stations were more interested in selling time, than keeping the audience. First I found Tivo, I got quite adept at bypassing the commercials. After dumping satellite for budgetary reasons, a friend suggested Netflix. I subscribed and never looked back.

Now I'm still exposed to commercials on talk radio, but even that is fading away. I listen to Rush mostly via podcast.

Online is similar, I use addblocker and popup blocker. Now if I want something I have to go look for it.

I do think times are changing for advertising. We all hate commercials, advertisers read that as we have to do more advertising.

One trend I've seen in advertising is very poor communication. It reminds me of academic exercises, you have to be educated to know what they are doing. This has gone on for enough generations, to go completely above the audience heads. So the marketers think people are stupid, without realizing they have been in the business so long. They forgot how to communicate to the audience.

Doc Whoa said...

You know the ads I really like? Jack in the Box. They have great ads.

AndrewPrice said...

Doc, Those are great ads.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, I spend a lot of time on the pay channels and rarely venture to the networks, so I don't see many advertisements anymore either. I do see a ton on my computer because several of the sites I visit don't work with an ad blocker in place.

I think you are right that advertisers have made a mistake. They notice that people are watching fewer ads and they think the answer is to advertise more, when really the key would be to find better ways to reach us which don't offend us. Unfortunately for them, they can't control all the other advertisers, so collectively they are basically killing the golden goose.

K said...

@Andrew: In future when you make a meaningful purchase of something, reflect on where your trust of that brand came from.

= You deserve a break today!

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. In terms of not knowing how to communicate, I have to disagree. You need to realize that when an ad doesn't "talk to you" that's often because you aren't the target market. I hear people say that all the time, "who would like that!" Well, the answer is someone in a very different demographic who is more likely to buy the product.

AndrewPrice said...

K, That is what advertising is supposed to be about, according to my economic professor -- it builds trust like posting a bond.

My faith in McDonalds actually comes form knowing that they are bastards when it comes to forcing their franchises to conform to their rules, plus my addiction to their product. :(

rlaWTX said...

this new round of Snickers' ads (new is relative - started at last year's Super Bowl I think) where "you're just not yourself when you're hungry" is pretty funny - especially since they caught everyone's attention with Betty White. But they also keep getting famous folks to go along with it.

I think that sometimes ad companies get caught up in the meme of a time - like the "men are stupid" commercials. I know a LOT of people that are pissed off by that theme, but ads followed where TV seemed to be going.
(I think "meme" is the word I want there?)

As for regular products, except for the occasional new on the market thing, ads generally don't make me want to buy the product.
But for fast food ads - I've made a Pizza Hut call (for example) because the dang commercial got me craving pizza.
And for movies, without ads I wouldn't always know if I was interested. BUT! I have noticed an interesting development - movies are marketed without always portraying the content accurately. My brother and I ended up seeing Spy vs Spy - which was marketed as a 'wanton chick' flick - it was much more interesting and entertaining than that - even for my brother. And Magic Mike - admittedly there are some very scantily clad, great-looking guys in the movie, but there was a lot more to it - AND expecting fluff and getting a darker story irritated some friends.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, Yes, meme is the word around here, though I don't know why. I think you're right that the ad companies get caught up in whatever obnoxious trend is going on at the time. I also suspect that ad companies are bastions of political correctness.

On movies, they absolutely misrepresent films these days. They know what sells and what doesn't and they will just try to fit any film into a box that sells.

ScyFyterry said...

I'm getting kind of sick of movie trailers. They're all the same now and none of them are all that accurate about what you're going to see. They've even begun splicing lines to make better lines that never happen in the film.

AndrewPrice said...

Terry, I know the feeling. The line splicing thing bothers me a lot too. That's basically false advertising.

K said...

@Andrew: I'm lovin it!

AndrewPrice said...

K, LOL! I'm lovin' it too much.

Actually, I haven't been to McDonalds in a month and I'm hoping that doesn't change.

tryanmax said...

Another thing about Hulu is, thanks to the technology, they are able to personalize ads better than broadcast TV.

I'm often amused when watching old reruns on MeTV how all the ads are for stuff only old people need/want. Obviously, I'm not part of the major demo. But when I watch older shows on Hulu, I get ads for stuff that is relevant to me. In fact, since the advent of Hulu, I've taken greater notice of ads and have actually responded directly to some. That's never happened before.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, The one I find creepy is when words I use in an e-mail start triggering ads. That's unacceptable to me. I can understand searches I enter, but words in an e-mail?

T-Rav said...

If I gave it some effort, I bet I could probably predict the layout of a movie based on the trailer. The mega-action shots you see halfway through are almost always at the beginning or end, and are often much shorter or toned-down than it would appear, there's the line-splicing thing mentioned, and in general the sequence of events is just completely out of order. If I were to take everything that happens in a trailer and impose my own made-up structure on it, it would probably be more accurate than the supposed structure from the trailer.

Tam said...

I've been bawling my eyes out over the P&G 'sponsor of moms' ads in the Olympics. And yet, my cupboards are not full of kellogs cereal.

My kid is an advertiser's dream...he agrees with almost every commercial narrator, "you're right! Brawny really is the thicker picker upper! Mom, we should get that!" It's a good thing he doesn't have access to money yet.

AndrewPrice said...

Here's an interesting point someone made on a political show a couple years back when asked why Hollywood makes such horrible films.

"It's not like they don't know how to make good movies. They are very good at trailers. So why can't they make the films more like the trailers."

Obviously, he didn't mean the ADD sense of it, but he meant that they can make entertaining seeming stories in the trailers, so why can't they extrapolate that to the whole picture anymore?

AndrewPrice said...

Tam, LOL! Yeah, that sounds like a behavior you need to break before you let him spend money... or vote. ;)

Individualist said...


Facebook has certainly hemmed themselves in with the "it's Free and always will be" tagline.

Google makes a lot of money selling search advertizements. I think with a little tweaking this is something Facebook could offer. Especially since once a search is completed, if the user Likes the ad site then they can justify continued revenue.

Individualist said...


When we did our analysis the targeted ads were not factored into the revenue model from the advertizers.

Perhaps that has been added to increase the rates to offeset the reduced ad time available.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Interesting topic!

Ads do affect some folks more than others.
I won't mention any names, but a close family member is influenced by food or fast food commercials roughly 80% of the time.

She (or he) has become indignant whenever I have brought this up and denies commercials have given her (him) the idea or had any influence whatsoever, but I have seen it happen numerous times.

In fact, I think many times he (she) isn't even conciously aware of it, unless I bring it up (at my peril!).
And it's not just food ads that have an obvious effect.

Which brings me to those ads that attempt to convince the viewer they need the product advertised, or that the product will make their lives easier.

"You can't afford NOT to by our product! There's a 100% money back gaurantee if you are not completely satisfied, so you have NOTHING to lose!"

"This product easily has a value of 80, 100, or 120 dollars but for a LIMITED time you can get it for the rock bottom price of $19.99! You can reorder additional (whatever) for only $9.99 or FREE (just pay seperate processing and handling)!"

BTW, that "just pay processing and handling" charge is often enough by itself for the business to make a profit.

These type of commercials troll for customers because the viewer may not even know they NEED this product until they see it, LOL.

As for the future of advertising, I expect we'll see a lot more products advertised during the shows/films and a lot more frequently.
Particularly in the cah cows (most popular ones).

IMO, that's the least annoying advertising (unless it's too blatant and takes the viewer out of the entertainment).

Of course, I still appreciate well made commercials. Geico, Dos Equis, hot chick eating potato chips, JG Wentworth opera commercial (catchy tune), etc., but I don't buy those products and haven't had to go to Mr. Wentworth to get my money 'cause I need it now (oddly enough, my money, if there is any, is usually in the bank and not at JG's place).

Thankfully, I'm a non-impulse buyer. The vast majority of the time I just block commercials out.
My wife will sometimes say "did you see that?" and I didn't because I blocked it out.
Really annoys her sometimes, LOL.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, I think they are hemmed in just because of expectations at this point. Plus, no matter how much they think they control the market for social networking, if they tried charging, people would flock somewhere else tomorrow.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

rlaWTX said...

"this new round of Snickers' ads (new is relative - started at last year's Super Bowl I think) where "you're just not yourself when you're hungry" is pretty funny..."

I particularly love the one where Roseann gets taken out by a tree, LOL! Very therapeutic.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Some people are very susceptible to the kinds of messages advertisers use, especially the paid programming advertisers. That's sad, but it's true. And there isn't much you can do about it except try to keep those people from making a huge mistake.

And so you know, I've seen similar problems at the huge law firm I worked at. They very status conscious and when some new campaign came out to make something like Audi into a status car, they all showed up with Audis. Sad.

The fact of the matter is that advertising works on human emotions perfectly. Some of it is aimed at the herd instinct... be like everybody else! Some of it is aimed at personal defects... this product will improve your life. And some of it is aimed at your desire to please you family... do this to protect your family! To me, it's all pretty despicable.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I liked that moment as well, where Roseann gets whacked by the tree. That made my heart feel good.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I concur, Andrew. Once a company pisses me off I make it a point not to buy their products.
It's not good business to make a quick buck dishonestly.

Businesses that are above board and honestly advertise have my appreciation. Les Schwab comes to mind, and I have been a lifetime customer.

There seems to be less businesses like that nowadays, who are loyal to their customers and believe honesty is the best policy which reflects the erosion of morals in our culture.

However, to keep perspective, there are still many small to medium sized businesses that aren't out to fleece their customers.

Fortunately, it's much easier to do a few seconds or minutes of research before making major purchases.
I know I have never regretted it.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I'm the same way. If a company pisses me off, I don't care what their product is, I won't buy it. Business ethics are important to me.

The Most Interesting Man in the Blog said...

I don't always watch advertisements, but when I do I analyze society. Stay thirsty, my friends.

AndrewPrice said...

You know it! LOL!

Anonymous said...

I don't know what it happened but commercials more or less became white noise for me at some point in the last few years. Maybe it had to do with the DVR, or watching programs online... but whenevr anyone asks me, "Did you see that commercial for XYZ?" the answer is usually, "No."

When I was younger, HBO aired a couple of educational documentaries for kids: Buy Me That followed a year later by Buy Me That, Too. They showed off all the tricks of the trade, how they made burgers and fries look good in ads, etc. I watched these programs many times so I was really clued into this stuff at an early age.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I never saw those documentaries, but I've seem similar ones and some of what they do is really gross. But like you, I've been clued in ever since and I watch for those things. I also took a lot of marketing courses in college so I understand the meaning behind the words and what they are trying to achieve, which always makes it interesting to watch.

In terms of being white noise, that's pretty much true for me too. I usually run past them or just ignore them, though sometimes I watch for them just to see what's going on culturally.

I think there is an age barrier on this, by the way. I have noticed that older people typically watch the commercials and actually pay attention to them, younger people tune them out. That's why I always find it interesting when I'm watching with a crowd and some older guy starts complaining about the commercials and the younger people don't even know what commercial was just on.

ellenB said...

You know what really ticks me off? When they ring a door bell in an ad. That drived my dogs crazy. Why would they do that? The best they'll get is upsetting people and people will stop paying attention to the ad.

ellenB said...

Andrew, I've seen the same generational thing. My parents sit glued to the television. I don't. No one in my age group does.

AndrewPrice said...

Ellen, That irks me too. It's stupid to put a doorbell on television because it just sets off people's dogs, which means you spend the next minute trying to calm them back down.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"I also took a lot of marketing courses in college so I understand the meaning behind the words and what they are trying to achieve, which always makes it interesting to watch."

Indeed. "Clinically proven" means it works on rats or roaches but not necessarily humans.

"But it's got electrolytes!" LOL!

tryanmax said...

It's very interesting to read everyone's outside perspectives. While I agree there are some ads on occasion that are very despicable (I think the Humane Society ads are downright rotten), I would say that most are pretty innocuous. After all, as has been said, most ads are pretty forgettable.

As for playing off of people's emotions, it's almost impossible not to. Sure, an ad could just throw out cold facts--and some actually do--but the case has been made that plain information appeals to certain emotions as well. In fact, in my specific industry, that's what has the most appeal: data. So there's no avoiding emotion.

As far as playing off of people's anxieties goes, that's just the negative way of looking at the situation. Say someone really is worried about protecting their family, let's say from intruders. He sees an ad for home security, he goes out and buys it. You could say the alarm company played off of his fears, but he had those already. Without the ad, he may not have heard of the company and his fears would continue unabated. As to whether that individual takes a reasonable or unreasonable amount of comfort from his new purchase is not under the control of the advertising company.

True, some people may have anxieties about frivolous things, like whether they drive the "right" car, and some ads to play into those frivolous fears. I really don't know where to come down on those.

The truly despicable ads, however, are the ones that attempt to instill anxiety. I brought up the Humane Society ad because it is clearly trying to project the message that you are a cold and uncaring person if you do not donate to the group immediately. But outside of the political arena, those ads are comparatively rare.

Finally, I will just say that behind every ad you see, there are people who genuinely believe the message it conveys. People produce products to solve problems. They might not always be important problems, but if you pay attention to it, the typical ad format is "you have a problem, we have a solution." It's almost always as simple as that. Beyond that, it's up to the view to decide if they really have the problem that gets mentioned.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, LOL! Do you know why scientists started using lawyers instead of rats to conduct experiments? Because there are some things even rats won't do!

tryanmax said...

FYI, a lot of that jargon, like "clinically proven," is dictated for use by the government. That isn't to say that advertisers wouldn't use even more esoteric jargon otherwise. But a lot of the words and phrases you hear in ads are actually your government's attempt to protect you. LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I would argue that the home security ads are about instilling anxiety. They don't just tell you about a protect to protect your family, they show the husband leaving the home or being away on business and then some dude (always white) trying to break in to attack the wife. Then the alarm system scares him away and they tell you, "don't let this happen to your family."

I agree about the Humane Society ads -- very much trying to shame you into giving.

Another group of ads I find totally despicable are the lawyer ads: "You might be hurt and not even know it!" and "do you ever feel tired or have an upset stomach? You might have gonna-die-if-don't-sue-itis!" I think those should be banned because they are trying convince people they should sue someone when the people have no innate desire already to sue anyone.

I also have real problems with ads that only tell you part of the truth, like all those insurance ads for old people "you can't be turned down." Of course you can't because you're being ripped off!

To me, there is a huge difference between positive and negative emotions, e.g. showing your product in its best light (like a steaming burger) v. trying to scare you into thinking you're going to die.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Tryanmax: Good points!

Unfortunately, people tend to recall the ads that irk them more than the ads that don't.
That's why I mentioned perspective.

We're all free to ignore ads, hit the mute button (except in theaters or product placement) or to watch, for entertainment or if a product looks interesting.

I really don't think any advertisers are trying to purposely upset their customers.
And snake oil salesmen have been around forever, so buyer beware.

There's good n' bad in advertising, like everything else.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I knew that. And the government is stupid. Ditto on all the fine print that no one can read.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Tryanmax: Thanks! I didn't know that. It makes sense though, since much of govt. are the biggest con men of them all.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I agree. I don't think they're trying to upset people... for the most part... though sometimes they know they are upsetting people. Look at telephone solicitors. They know that they will anger 100 people for every person who wants to talk to them, but they don't care because it's cost effective to call all 101 people.

Also, sometimes they are trying to upset people because of the idea that outrage is good publicity.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Speaking of home security ads, it would be nice to see Colt, Winchester and Remington, etc., do some.
They make me feel much more secure than an alarm system.

Add some dogs and firearms training and you're ready to go! :^)

"Bark Bark!"

"Boom! Bang!"

Bad guy lying on the floor.

"Colt...for all your family security needs." :^)

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Of course, you know the liability on an ad like that would be intense.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Andrew: Oh yeah, those ambulance chaser ads. Egads.

"Call 1-800-BAD DRUG now!"

I even saw that one for tylenol and you hafta take more than prescribed or with a bad combination of other meds to hurt your liver.

Good grief.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Andrew, I could only imagine. However, the security alarms do give a false sense of security, so I would think that would raise liability issues as well for those who believe that would actually protect them.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, We get that one too -- 1-800-BAD-DRUG! Assholes.

My parents had an alarm for years. I remember one time, I got a call from the alarm company when it went off because they tried calling the house and couldn't get through. I was 1,400 miles away and yet they kept insisting I needed to go turn off the alarm. They never did call the cops either. Talk about a messed up situation!

Joel Farnham said...


What is really annoying about ads is that the volume goes up. Usually too high and I have to turn down the volume, which then means I have to turn it back up to be able to hear the movie or show I am watching. I am not paying any attention to the ad except for the volume.

If you buy something at Amazon or Newegg and you go to a different site, the stuff follows you around. I bought a flash drive from Newegg and now it shows up almost at every site I go to. That is annoying.

E-mails that are addressed to me and I don't know the person or company sending it. It usually is some sort of spam, but it is a smart spam. Oh, and if you get close to 50, the old age stuff starts showing up.

What really is annoying is how much advertisers cram into an E-Mail from someone I do want to hear from like Walter Williams from TownHall or Ann Coulter. I am getting very good at ignoring the stuff, but still.

tryanmax said...

I will offer this rule of thumb: if an ad rubs you the wrong way, it's a negative ad. If you notice, the ones that really try to play on negative emotions are usually the ones with the lowest production value.

I've notice a very humorous trend in advertising where it has become extremely self-aware. Like the Axe ads with the women just going over-the-top nuts for some nerdy guy because he uses their body spray or hair gel. It's absolutely so far-fetched it calls attention to itself as phony (except to the liberal feminists who don't understand humor).

Or there's the ads that actually talk about seeing an ad for the website right in the ad itself.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I do have to say I like their songs though.

I hadn't noticed about the low production values, but that could well be. I'll have to watch for that.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, The ad volume drives me insane! That is something Congress honestly needs to fix, not pretend to fix.

To me, e-mail advertising is totally worthless. I just don't trust it. And that assumed I even see it. I'm so awash in spam that I pretty much ignore anything that doesn't come from some I know or with a header that is obviously meant for me.

tryanmax said...

I wonder if the ad volume thing is entirely the advertisers fault? So many TV dramas these days are doing the full-range audio where the dialogue is whisper quiet so that the gun shots and sirens can come in to blow your ear-drums out. Now that I think about it, I notice the ad volume more when I'm watching dramas than with comedies.

Besides, even if the ad was recorded with the levels all the way up, it's the broadcaster who ultimately sets the broadcast levels. I said before, I watch a lot of MeTV and their volume is pretty constant. Their main demo is obviously oldsters, so I wonder if they are being mindful of that with the broadcast.

AndrewPrice said...

The networks have blamed the advertisers. They claim they have no control over it, which strikes me as BS since they can set the specs for anything they show.

The probably apparently is a multi-layered problem where volume is an issue plus the density of the sound within the volume. Plus, it's all cued on the loudest sound in the program. So if the show has a single gunshot, then the ads can be as loud as the gunshot.

But I don't know anyone who doesn't want this fixed.

tryanmax said...

I'll tell you what, now that I've thought about it, it almost pisses me off more that all the programming out there assumes I have a complete surround-sound system, which I don't. So I have to watch everything with one thumb on the volume button.

I know for awhile they were marketing TVs that supposedly leveled out the volume themselves (don't know if they worked), but I guess those days are over. Now everything we watch including the weather report must be in movie theater audio.

AndrewPrice said...

Tell me about it. The sound on modern movies sucks. Yes, I'm sure it's great if you have a massive theater set up. But if you just have a normal television, then it's almost unwatchable no matter how you set it. You almost always end up spending your timing making it louder, quieter, or just hitting the mute button. Talk about annoying.

I actually view everyone in the sound field right now as incompetent. I'm sure they think they're great, but they're not. They're incompetent.

Anthony said...


Modern tvs still include the option to keep sound within a narrow range, keeping whispers audible and keeping gunshots from waking up the kids (its called night mode on my tvs).

tryanmax said...

Anthony, good to know! I'll have to poke around my TV's settings to see if I can find something like that. Thanks!

AndrewPrice said...

Mine has one of those, but it doesn't really change anything.

BIG MO said...

All this talk of advertising reminds me of the ads for a local discount smokes and liquor chain. In one particular ad, the proprietor says: "The more she drinks, the better you look."

Sleazy -- yet utterly honest.

AndrewPrice said...

Sleazy, but no doubt effective with their target market.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Andrew, irt the alarm system that is messed up!
The police here don't even check on private home alarms anymore.
They don't have the manpower, and the vast majority of alarms are false alarms or caused by animals.
Even if the police were dispatched to an alarm, it can take up to 30 minutes or more.

Ideally, if an alarm system works right, it would tell the family there is an intrusion; animal or human.
That can be useful for those who don't have dogs and give you more time to get a weapon ready and call the cops (after talking to the alarm company).

IRT the alcohol making people look better:

Beer Goggles

Mythbusters did a show on this:
Does Alcohol Make People More Attractive?

rlaWTX said...

One of the great things about my parents finally getting a remote control TV (even though I was already out of high school, and everyone else in the known universe had had one for years) was not having to get up and go turn down the volume for commercials. And muting commercials is a sacred responsibility in my grandparents' house - if you have the remote, you'd better be ready as soon as the ad starts and be ready for the show to return.

I am a channel flipper during commercials. I either have a second "commercial" show to watch, or I go popping around til they're over.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I'm told that they don't check on private alarms here anymore either. And if you do call them to come, there's something like a $250 charge if it turns out to be a false alarm.

Nice link! LOL!

(By the way, check out the article at the main site today. Pass it around to your friends.)

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, LOL! That's the very thing advertisers don't want to hear, but I think that goes on all across the country more and more.

I'm a channel flipper too, but even when I'm not flipping, I still mute the commercials.

BIG MO said...

One more tidbit from me. About 15 or so years ago, my wife and I were at her parents' house and there was a ... heated ... argument between the four of us. Someone then turned up the TV volume, and there was a commercial for this cat sitting on the stairs.

Suddenly the cat sneezes -- and all of its fur goes flying off. Busted us up, and put an end to the argument. (It was one of those "Life's messy. Clean it up." commercials for Bissell.)

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, There are certainly some good commercials. I've never heard of them stopping an argument, but that's great! :)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Andrew, I think Neal McCoy does a better job then the Mythbusters, LOL.

I'm reading the comments to that most excellent post right now. :^)

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, The Mythbusters are truly entertaining!

I don't normally pimp my own articles, but this one is worth passing around. :)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I don't mind the pimpin', Andrew. The post looks mighty fine so you wanna advertise the goods, LOL.

rlaWTX said...

Allstate commercials!! I am still mad at Allstate from an incident in 1998 and won't be switching to them, but I love their commercials! The newest one with Mayhem as the guard dog cracks me up!

Floyd R. Turbo said...

I always liked the Joe Molsen I AM a Canadian ad...

You know they have pent up anger like that.

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