Do We Really Listen to Advertisements?

Who loves commercials?  This guy does.  Commercials are fantastic.  They’re an art form, really, and a tremendous challenge: in what other medium are you up against the task of wresting your audience’s attention away from their phone, their wife, their plate of hot wings, their fridge?  In what other medium do you have a limit of just fifteen or thirty seconds to make a convincing point — enough for your ideas to stick in the mind of your audience?  Advertisers have a hard job, and some of them are very very good at it, but some of them are very very bad at it.  Pardon my complete lack of wordsmithery, I’m still coming down off the pain meds and the old bean is throbbing something fierce.

But that’s a nice tie-in, because I want to talk about a specific commercial that’s affected me in a very specific way.  The product in question is Lumosity, a product I neither use nor endorse, because — as is my wont — I know nothing about it aside from what I’ve seen in the ads.  What I’ve seen, however, is beyond stupid.

First things first.  Is the ad effective?  That depends.  I can’t ever see myself buying or recommending the product.  That would seem to be a fail for the ad.  However, I don’t know that I’m in the target demographic for the product (brain training, memory retention, seems to be marketed at an older crowd, even though it’s all young people in the ads), so that’s a wash.  However, the ad has without a doubt stuck with me: so much so that I’m here blarging about it and I’m about to tell you why it’s stuck with me so inextricably, and if the goal of an ad is to plant an idea in your mind — to Inceptionize its audience, so to speak — then it’s certainly effective.

Take a look at the video below.  I saw this ad on my television about three days ago and it’s latched into my brain with white-hot raptor claws.

Anything in there strike you as odd?  Nonsensical?  Let’s ignore the central claim about games being able to strengthen your brain.  That may or may not be a valid claim; I certainly haven’t done the research, though I did play a sharknado-ton of video games as a kid, and well, let’s just say I didn’t become a rocket scientist or anything.  But no, it’s not that.  Ads claim all kinds of things that are dubious.  Just look at any ad for a weightloss product.  No, at about the 14 second mark, the talking head in the ad says something so idiotic that my brain actually made me play back the commercial — I ACTUALLY REWOUND THE PLAYBACK TO RE-WATCH A COMMERCIAL, OK — and watch it again to make sure I heard it properly.

He says “It makes my brain feel great.”

Ponder that for a moment.  Let it marinate in your thinking parts and ooze its septic juice all over your cortices.  Feel the throbbing pleasure build in your brain as you process the wonderful feeling that critical thinking produces.  Oh, what’s that?  You don’t feel anything?  That’s because the brain is not a sensory organ.  Ergo, it can no more feel great than it can ride a bicycle or teach a monkey to dance.

I’m straying into the realm of science I don’t know enough about here.  I know that.  The brain is nothing short of a miracle of evolution.  But it can’t feel things.  It can interpret electrical impulses that your various organs that actually do sensing relay to it, but it does not create sense data of its own.  Claiming that your brain can “feel great” is beyond stupid.  YOU can feel great.  YOU can feel intelligent or smug or satisfied or capable of world domination after playing Lumosity’s games, but your brain doesn’t feel ANYTHING.

But, they said it.  And it made it through first draft to the final draft and into the commercial, so they obviously thought it was a good line.  And why not?  Who wouldn’t want their brain to feel great?  I know I would!  Gosh golly gee, my brain just lives in the dumps all day long.  It feels like total crap most of the time.  I want my brain to feel better!

…See how dumb that sounds?

There’s another ad in recent history that I sadly can’t find online at the moment.  It was an ad for a toothpaste, Sensodyne I think.  In it, a woman says she suffered from tooth pain due to damage to the enamel that drinking coffee had done over years and years, and that Sensodyne helped her get some relief.  WELL AND GOOD.  But then at the end of the commercial, she starts listing the virtues of this magical angel’s butt-paste.  It whitened my teeth.  It repaired the damage I’d done.  It allowed me to drink cold beverages again.  It helped me to eat healthier.

Wait.  Hold on.  Stop the train.  You want to claim (or rather, the company wants you to claim) that this toothpaste turned you from a french-fry mobbing, pizza-devouring, I’ll-have-seconds-on-my-ice-cream-no-make-that-thirds unhealthy eater into a healthy person that makes smart food choices?  NO IT DIDN’T.  Sorry, it didn’t.  MAYBE in learning about the toothpaste and the damage you were doing to your teeth you realized that you were eating like a human garbage disposal and THAT realization made you reconsider the things that you put into your mouth-hole.  But the toothpaste has no more to do with the decision than it did with Obama’s re-election.  (Unless I’m on to something here.  In which case.. uh… yay, Sensodyne?  Please don’t bug my house?)

Okay, I’m fixating.  I’m reading way too much into what should otherwise be a throwaway moment in a commercial that shouldn’t matter to me.  BUT THIS IS THE POINT.  Advertisers will say anything — literally, ANYthing — to make you buy a product.  Who among us doesn’t want to eat healthier?  Who wouldn’t like to have their BRAIN FEEL GREAT?  These nonsensical claims, ridiculous as they are, sound good when we hear them and they work on us subconsciously , tricking us into thinking that the products they’re hawking are actually worth a monkey’s turd.

All this is to say, next time you see an ad, just think about what’s really being said.  Seriously.  Stop and think and engage those critical muscles in your brain (OH WAIT THE BRAIN DOESN’T HAVE MUSCLES JUST KIDDING) and actually consider what they’re saying.  You might just stop yourself from wasting your money.  Or at the very least you can get a preachy blarg topic out of it.

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About Pavowski

I am a teacher, runner, father, and husband. I am an author-in-progress. I know just enough about a lot of things to get me into a lot of trouble. View all posts by Pavowski

7 responses to “Do We Really Listen to Advertisements?

  • shanjeniah

    People often tell me I “think too much” about ads. But, every time someone on television tells me that something is “affordable”, I want to ask how the advertisers have any idea what our family budget is.

    The local news runs an ad that goes along the lines of:
    “We know your mornings are hectic. You’ve got to get yourself to work, You’ve got to get your kids to school…”

    Except, they DON’T know. I don’t work outside the home, currently. My husband is a chef. He leaves for work in the early afternoon, and he doesn’t work on Mondays and Tuesday, but does work weekends (the news show being advertised is a weekday morning show).

    Neither of our children have ever attended school. They may never do so. For them, learning is like breathing – it’s always happening, even when you don’t realize it. We don’t have set “school times”, even here at home.

    So, no matter what the writers of that ad think they know about us- well, they’re wrong. They’re assuming. They’re leaving out the retired, the second-shifters, the stay at home parents, the childless, the unemployed…

    I’ve heard that Lumosity ad, but never stopped to watch it because I always seemed to be doing something else when it came on.

    I think I’ll keep my brain sharp (figuratively speaking) by exploring new ideas, places, and things, by using my imagination, by talking with people, by learning new skills….

    It won’t make the Lumosity folks any money, though…

    Like

    • Pavowski

      Yeah, more and more I think the “average” family or the “average” person is just a meaningless catchphrase. Douglas Adams had a nice line that I’m reminded of: “We will be restoring normality just as soon as we are sure what is normal anyway.”

      Like

      • shanjeniah

        The wisdom of Douglas Adams is far too often underrated. in my opinion. Hadn’t read this gem, so thanks for sharing.

        Like

      • Pavowski

        I’m not sure I agree about him being underrated. I think he’s got exactly the kind of quirky niche appreciation that his writing merits. Had he had the sort of hurricane exposure of a John Grisham or Stephen King, it wouldn’t be quite so delightful to find others who have read and loved him.

        Pretty sure that quote is from his first “Hitchhiker” book, if you want more of the same 🙂

        Like

      • shanjeniah

        I can see your point.

        It’s been decades since I read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe series. I am old enough to have played the text-only computer game. Never could figure out how to get the Babel fish out of the vending machine and into my ear…I think I must have died hundred of times under the torture of Vogon poetry…

        Now I want to put those books into the never-ending TBR list…

        My favorite Adams book so far is Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and the Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. Norse Gods. Clean Linen. Coke machines. Dangerous Refrigerator.

        Like

      • Pavowski

        I’m quite fond of Dirk Gently, and I totally remember that game too! I actually played that *before* I read the books.

        Like

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