Social Question

ibstubro's avatar

Why are so many people willing to believe the unbelievable in advertising?

Asked by ibstubro (10886 points ) February 15th, 2014

The radio plays 24/7 in my home, and there is a constant inundation of unbelievable ads.

Wipe out your credit card debt!
Wipe out your student loans!
Everyone drives away in a new car!

It’s amazing, and it seems ridiculous to me. I have a couple of theories why it occurs, I’d like to hear yours.

I think the discussion might be a little narrow for General (although I’d like some serious discussion) so I’ll post to Social and let people have some fun with it if they like.

(If you have an extreme example of ridiculous ad overstatement, that’s welcome, too!)

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20 Answers

Symbeline's avatar

I’ve never understood this myself, either. Commercials and advertisement remind me of those religious preachers that sing and say stuff like praaaaaise de laaawd.
There is ALWAYS a catch in advertisement promises, there is ALWAYS some loop hole, and what is promised is NEVER as it seems. Besides all that, I think it’s ridiculous that they make you want to somehow believe that without their product or service, your life is not complete. All commercials, for me, go through one ear and out the other, and for the life of me I can’t understand why people pay attention to them. But it must work, and people must listen, for if not, they would not exist.

The only logical thing I can think of is that people are NOT being fooled, but we still need things. Commercials and advertisement are a good source. A new car, credit, banking, food, housing, mortgage…name it. People need that stuff, so if I’m like everyone else, it’s not that anyone believes the unbelievable, it’s just that they wait for addresses and phone numbers.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

I myself have always been disappointed with that foam cleaner that has all those little bubble people that come alive and clean your bathroom for you,never have found them yet. :(

glacial's avatar

@Symbeline “The only logical thing I can think of is that people are NOT being fooled”

I agree. I can’t remember ever deciding I need to buy anything because of advertising. Vast sums of money are being wasted on what I suspect is only effective as an irritation.

No doubt someone will now produce statistics showing that people buy things directly because of advertising… but who are these people? I don’t know anyone that gullible.

Cruiser's avatar

@Symbeline ” praaaaaise de laaawd.” crack me up!

Anything by Ron Popeil was Uber irritating and deliberately so…shtick sells and he made billions being the slickest shticker on TV. I got a “Clapper” as a Christmas grab bag gift and though it does work you cannot play AC DC tunes as loud as you want at the same time unless you desire a light show to flash with the beat!

hominid's avatar

I thought everyone just agreed that advertising works?

newtscamander's avatar

Maybe some people would like to believe that those big companies really care about their customers and that there are products that can make your life better, that you can just go to the shops and buy a chocolate snack that guarantees some quality time with your kids, coffee that allows your grandchildren to open up to you about their lives and juice that will give you a killer immune system.
Sometimes it might nice to have these little illusions, some of them might even be like a self-fulfilling prophecy- when the mother sees the chocolate snack in the fridge she’s reminded to have that quality time subconsciously, for example.
An alternative to believing in a God, maybe? :)

El_Cadejo's avatar

In the ads you talk about, they’re preying on the desperate. I think those people are at such a point that they really want to believe there can be some miracle cure for their horrible predicament.

ibstubro's avatar

Now, my theory is that people don’t really believe the unbelievable commercials any more than they believe in fad diets. But they’re stymied and think that the next one is the one that will put them over that hump.

Yes, @uberbatman I agree that they also prey on the desperate and the desperately stupid.

Coloma's avatar

Because American egos are fucking ginormous and everyone thinks they deserve the best of everything. Drive this Lexus and you will get fucked by 40 bombshell blondes before dinner time. Use this diet plan and you’ll be dancing in Paris in your slinky little dress in no time at all. Buy this age spot fading creme and become 22 again overnight! lol

I have known people in my past that had to have a Mercedes in the driveway of their shitty little tract houses. I just laugh at how gullible and yes, desperate people are.

ragingloli's avatar

Same reason that people fall for religion. Wishful thinking and a lack of skepticism.

ucme's avatar

Aim high to drag your prey in, then let them down gently once they’re in your clutches.

gondwanalon's avatar

For health and beauty adds where miracle cures are claimed perhaps desperation and gullibility are key factors.

Last year I was a sucker for an add that claimed that cervical adjustments could cure my heart’s persistent atrial fibrillation. I shelled out about $500 to have a chiropractic “doctor” lightly touch my neck for about two seconds. Of course it did nothing so I ran back to my cardiologist and paid >$100K to fix my heart correctly.

JLeslie's avatar

I think because they were never told to be wary of advertising maybe? My husband believes all those weight loss ads. Drives me crazy. LOL. He also believes he will win the lottery and is willing to buy things he sees on TV. I am skeptical of all bold claims, if it is too good to be true it probably isn’t true. My parents told me from a young age I can’t have everything I see on TV or in stores. I think having very little money when I was young my parents were careful not to buy things that were not a sure thing. By contrast my husband received all sorts of toys and material things. He sees it, he wants it, he gets it. Or, he got it. I ruined that scenerio for him to some extent. Poor guy.

Pachy's avatar

People believe what they want or need to believe or not believe (as is the case with global climate deniers and Bible literalists).

Coloma's avatar

@Pachy One hot crucifixion. lol

syz's avatar

Take a pill to lose weight, no diet or exercise needed!
Take a pill to get a bigger dick and make your girlfriend happy!
This coin with $50 worth of gold is only $9.99!
Get this 50 inch TV for just $1.99, bids as low as 99% off retail!

ibstubro's avatar

Definite “lack of skepticism.” @ragingloli

Understandable though, @gondwanalon.

The lottery is an apt mention, @JLeslie

Exactly, @syz. How many times can you be hooked??

Mimishu1995's avatar

Sorry I came here too late. Sorry again for not knowing why people believe in advertising so much. But you want some extreme example of ridiculous adverstising @ibstubro? I have one.

There is a TV program, whose title is literally translated as: “The Prefect Choice”, which has been broadcasted since I was very young. It advertises various products from “innovative” microwaves to “effective” exercise machine. It usually lasts for at least 20 minutes, and during the time they keep boasting about one chosen product Yeah, you hear that, only one product! The typical methods they use are comparing the product with others similar ones being sold, comparing the functions of the product with several other products (like “our X can do what Y, Z, M can, so our X is like a combination of Y, Z, M!”) and emphasizing (and repeating) on how convenient, effective and time-saving the product is. The program always ends with “call xxxx to order now, it’s the number to our trusted and only store” and “quickly! The X firsts customers will receive Y special offers”.
One extreme example is some kind of muscle-massaging stickers called “Dr. Ho”. They claimed that the stickers are the combination of an exercising machine and a massaging machine. “You don’t need to go anywhere. Just sit there and stick Dr. Ho on your body. All your muscle pain will go away. Also, you can build big, strong muscles without going to gyms or using any equipment”! Another is some kind of whitening cream. It was advertised as being able to both whiten the skin and remove scars and wrinkles. “It can turn a 60 years old woman into a 20 years old lady”!

When I was young I actually believed it! I even wrote down the number and ask my parents to buy one of their products someday :(

ibstubro's avatar

I think the laws in the US prohibit such blatant quackery, @Mimishu1995, but the US has seen it’s share of snake oil salesmen. You can still get by with it, but you have to be more subtle and slick.

Thanks for a look at a different culture, though!

Hmm. There might be some new terms for you.

Mimishu1995's avatar

@ibstubro Yeah, but there’s no law prohibiting such advertising, so the program just lives on, alive and kicking. To make the matter worse, so far many people still believe that crap. Google search results for all those products (with Vietnamese keywords) only lead to websites selling them. I once saw a forum (yeah, a very rare forum) asking about advice on buying Dr. Ho!
By the way what do you mean “new term?

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