Hidden Persuaders

Everybody knows that advertisements are designed to persuade you to buy the product. It’s also well-known that the ads work better when they appeal to your emotional side, to your subconscious, rather than to your rational side.  The adman will not hesitate to arouse your sexual desire, or feelings of guilt,  or leverage  feelings of low self-esteem,  to sell his product.  Consider the ads that have scantily clad women, or authority figures saying that you must do the best for your children, or when the actor in the ad transforms from a loser to a confident, attractive person by a single application of some substance. In fact, you may rationally reject the message but the ad has still reached your subconscious mind.
I recently realized that getting people to buy that product is just one of the goals. There seems to be another hidden goal, especially with consumable products . Here are some examples, try to spot the hidden goal:

  • Toilet Soap: boy standing under a running shower, rubbing a bar of soap on the skin.  Notice that  a lot of soap is being wasted as it comes in contact with  running water. Further,  vigorous rubbing of the soap bar abrades away a lot more soap than is really used.  Note how this ties into being able to adulterate the soap, the soap is loaded with fillers like sodium silicate which have no cleaning action.
  • Toothpaste: Close-up shot of at least an inch of toothpaste being lovingly applied along the whole length of the toothbrush. Do you know how little toothpaste is really needed?  The manufacturer is also eager to shaft the customer in two remaining dimensions – the diameter of the tube orifice is much larger than needed, so that the maximum amount of toothpaste is consumed (wasted) per application.
  • Deodorant: The 90 pound weakling puts on  this brand of deodorant, then goes out. He is immediately attacked by several attractive girls. Locations differ but the result is the same – a happy, satiated, 90 pound weakling. You may not have noticed consciously that the weakling has sprayed about half the whole bottle of deo on himself and the room. But your subconscious is getting trained that it takes half a bottle of deo per use to attract gorgeous girls.
  • Cologne/Aftershave: Every notice that the handsome man splashes a huge amount of cologne on his face? Some ads show this action several times, to make sure the message sinks in. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aRIyxh_yKk

The second hidden goal should be clear now– it is to get people to consume MORE. More, more, more. More than really needed.

But now that you are aware of this subtle persuasion, you can first of all realize that you cannot trust what is being shown in the ad. And then you can figure out yourself the correct quantities to be applied per use of such consumable products. It may be harder to convince the children, however.
I will try to guess where this trend might go – one might see some “improved” products or packaging with improved “wastage  coefficients”.

  • Toilet soap with sponge-like structure. Dissolves faster under running water. Although it will be marketed as being gentler or with special enzyme action etc.
  • Toothbrushes with increased surface area.
  • Toothpaste tubes with a square orifice (square cross section has higher area than a circular cross-section).
  • Deodorant or cologne bottle with a spring loaded dispenser that always delivers a big squirt.

If you come across more such ads, please do post a link or a description in the comments.

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