Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Advertising -- Why Do We Assume It Works?

Some ads seem to be made to make the viewer not think about the product ostensibly being advertised. Often one doesn't know what's being advertised know until the final instant of a TV commercial. Could be Nike, could be Gatorade, could be the US Army, could be GAP clothing, could be a motor vehicle, could be software, could be a product completely unrelated to any of those. There's 20 to 60 seconds of stylish visuals, and then the logo is shown at the end.

Then there's GEICO. GEICO advertising seems to represent a completely separate category of weird behavior. They're like the ads mentioned above only when it's the first commercial featuring a new character or characters. After that, I know as soon as I see the gecko or the pig, or some other trademark character, that I'm watching a GEICO commercial -- and, full disclosure, I tend to like GEICO commercials. I like some of them very much -- but I couldn't honestly say that I associate them with insurance. Supposedly there's a lot of advanced psychological science bending our subconscious minds here. Really? Or has GEICO just been hosting a particularly interesting live-action short film festival stretched out over decades? I don't think these commercials are really igniting a subconscious passion for GEICO deep within me. I think I'm really just thinking how cute the gecko or the piglet is -- I really love the piglet! -- and whether the guy who does the voice for the gecko is the same guy who used to be one of the hosts of "Globe Trekker" on PBS, and things like that. I believe that I am still in control over my own financial decisions despite the fact that GEICO's commercials entertain me so much.

Going further, I think that the Allstate commercials with the character who embodies mayhem are significantly less effective, in terms of marketing, than no commercials at all would have been. The mayhem guy reminds me of a mafioso coming into my home and saying, "Gee, it'd be a shame if this place got busted up, so you should pay us $500 a month." These commercials make me not want to associate with Allstate.

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