We watch... so you don't have to.

The Power of Persuasion

O, advertising industry, you have won. The power to influence my purchases through emotions is all yours.

I just bought a car because of a commercial.

We were looking for something big enough to haul home a bookcase, yet small enough to slide into what passes for a parking spot on a city street. We wanted something that was fuel efficient and safe. And we had narrowed down the choice to two vehicles: the Volkswagon Jetta station wagon and the Subaru Outback Sport. And then we were paralyzed by indecision, since the cars were pretty evenly matched in all the features we wanted.

Then one night, I was watching television and on came a VW commercial. It opened with two hipper-than-me young adults flailing about their living room in loose syncopation to the deafening music issuing from their gigantic speakers. After a brief shot of a beleaguered neighbor banging on the ceiling, we see these hipper-than-me young adults packing their giant speakers into their VW... and moving into a house where they can presumably continue their flailing about until their neighbors begin burning the words "You're driving down our property values" into the lawn.

As the commercial ended, my living room was shaken by a tremendous -- yet sadly familiar -- thud. The upstairs neighbors were engaged in their nightly cage match, staged in their living room and accompanied by the sensitive musical stylings of John Mayer. I can only presume that the soundtrack is meant as an ironic statement: Your body is a wonderland... when I'm not slamming it through the coffee table. I thought about the kind of car company that would gleefully embrace the noisy-neighbor demographic.

"Baby," I said to the husband, "We're getting the Subaru." And we did.

The next commercial that moved me is the Diet Pepsi one currently in heavy rotation on the Fox Sports Network channels. You've probably all seen it: a convenience store flunky locks up for the night, but makes the mistake of leaving the radio on. It's playing the "Blitzkrieg Bop" -- a development that the rack of Diet Coke cans bemoans, as the Diet Pepsi cans that live above it are moshing, thus wrecking everyone's chances for a good night's sleep. The dancing sodas I don't find implausible so much as I do the idea that any convenience store owner would actually close. Isn't the point to convenience stores that they are open during the dreadful wee hours? Anyway, my point is: this commercial told me that Diet Pepsi is the proud sponsor of noisy upstairs neighbors everywhere. Therefore, I will have nothing to do with the vile concoction.

I will grant you, O advertising industry, that the emotion which ultimately motivated me to choose one product over its equal was spite. And so the ads were ineffective in the sense that they ultimately deprived you of my money. But you did win in another sense -- not only did the ads affect me, I've now got your brand identity emblazoned on my brain. Let's hear it for ads!


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