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LostInParadise's avatar

Why is advertising so effective?

Asked by LostInParadise (31979points) August 10th, 2011

If you ask people why they buy certain products, they will most likely mention some combination of quality and price. Nobody is going to say they buy products due to advertisements. Similarly, nobody is going to list campaign ads as a reason for voting for someone.

Yet the effectiveness of advertising is well documented and considerable money goes into it. What does it say about us that we are so influenced by advertising? This is especially curious regarding things that people would know about without advertising, like McDonald’s restaurants.

I find particularly upsetting that money is so important in political campaigns. This has made politicians captive to large corporations. The recent decision in the Supreme Court regarding corporate campaign contributions is only going to intensify this effect.

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16 Answers

tom_g's avatar

Why so effective? They’re scientifically-informed campaigns to attack our unconscious in order to create desire.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Humans, as a species, are very suggestible. This is actually not a bad thing, as being open to new ideas for community survival allow the genetic strains that are open and flexible to proliferate. Advertising is just someone cleverly abusing that survival trait for their own purposes.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

It’s not effective if you know what they’re doing. We just need to educate ourselves and it doesn’t work. Jesus Christ, could they bring anymore commercials on TV? Thank whoever invented the remote.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”-P.T. Barnum

picante's avatar

We humans seem to love being told how we’re deficient and how [fill in the blank] will make all our troubles go away. I loathe women’s magazines, yet I can’t put them down. My eye lashes aren’t long enough; my purse is the wrong color for the season; my belt is soooo yesterday. Right.

thorninmud's avatar

Advertising functions by forging an association between the product and our primal drives (the quest for sex, status, happiness). The making of this connection doesn’t involve the rational faculties at all; in fact, rationality just gets in the way.

When you ask someone why they buy a certain product, you’re engaging their rational faculties in an attempt to justify their behavior. But because the behavior has its roots in a non-rational process, whatever “reason” comes forth will almost certainly be a fabrication. The emotional lure of the product—it’s association with our deep longings—resides in the right cerebral hemisphere; that’s where the behavior comes from. But the left hemisphere, which will do the explaining, will just construct some satisfyingly rational basis for what it really doesn’t understand.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

Check out Propaganda by Edward Bernays, the father of public relations. It can be found online for free. Very interesting stuff.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Because the science of Neuromarketing is real.

wundayatta's avatar

Advertising actually provides information. That information is used by many people as a basis for choosing products. It may be prejudiced information, and the information may work on many parts of the brain, but it is still useful to an individual.

We train our children to be very suspicious of advertising. My son, age 11, is all over youtube looking for demos and reviews of products. I’m not sure if the information he gets is objective—I doubt it—but he does go to several different sources before making decisions.

We bought a computer for him based on this research. It had the features he wanted, but it seems its parts and construction are somewhat weak. Well, hopefully he learns that he needs to look at customer reviews and editorial reviews as well. Even then, his information will never be perfect.

Cruiser's avatar

People are very predictable and now with all the data collected from years of credit card and store card purchasing…they even know when and how much you are going to buy next.

marinelife's avatar

Because it is designed by marketing and sales experts to appeal subtly to people’s images of themselves. If their image is enhanced by the product being sold, they will be inclined to buy it.

linguaphile's avatar

Because advertising and marketing is a multibillion dollar industry. We are way more programmed than any of us would like to admit and they depend on that. Every unconscious ‘yes’ makes their dollars worthwhile.

flutherother's avatar

Advertising succeeds by telling people what they like to believe. It tells them they are getting a bargain. That they can be more beautiful, that they can be safe and healthy that they can eat and remain slim. It doesn’t lie but it twists a truth into something beckoning and misleading.

Look at this advert for Zoloft (This advert wouldn’t be allowed in the UK as medicines here must be prescribed by doctors, which seems sensible to me as what does the man in the street know about pharmaceuticals and their effects.)

It tells us nothing about the drug but in a very simple way it says that if we are feeling miserable Zoloft will make us feel better. That is the message. It does this by presenting us with cartoons, coloured pictures, mood music and a little spurious science. It tells us what we want to believe and nothing else. We don’t want things to be complicated, we want an easy solution and this is it. The advertiser has done our thinking for us and we don’t even stop to consider whether the advertiser’s interests are the same as ours. It slips in under reason and logic straight to the emotional centres of the brain and there it remains until we next speak with our doctor.

linguaphile's avatar

The Advertising Industry starts targeting kids while very young. Barney? Wiggles? Teletubbies? Kids make a very early connection between what they see on TV and what they can get from their parents. Distant fictional experiences (TV) become imitative realties (toys) in their life. Fast forward 20 years and you see the same kids struggling to make fictional images (models, bodies, the perfect cuppa coffee) a real presence in their lives.

I’ll just use Bratz as my most hated example of prepping female tweens for a lifetime of beauty product consumerism—that doesn’t even include what kind of self-perception message the tweens are getting with the skanky, porn star expressions these dolls have. Even Baby Bratz have them. They make the anorexic Barbies look so wholesome and safe. I adore American Girl dolls, but they’re just another angle that marketing takes—$125 PER doll that cost over $2000 to fully equip, and there are over 10 of them? Oh, I forgot the Build-A-Bears.

My point—the advertising industry starts with young kids and that makes their job with adults much easier.

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