Commercials and Marketing

I will periodically remark on a commercial I’ve seen or heard with a comment like, “That was really stupid. That company ought to fire whoever wrote that commercial.” My wife will then give me this knowing smile and say, “But do you remember what company the commercial is _for_?” When I say that I do, she then says, “Well, then, that guy _doesn’t_ get fired. He’s done his job.” And I am chagrined to find that I see her point.

For a while Taco Bell ran a series of commercials that I thought were pretty lame. More recently, Subway has been running their “Subway Dinner Theatre” commercials, which I find so obnoxious I have to turn the radio down or change TV channels just so I don’t have to put up with them. Geiko’s commercials, which are usually extraordinarily funny, have also gone the way of unfunny lately, and now “PS3 has a new commercial”: that is just strange, bizarre, and quite disturbing.

Have the marketing people done their jobs? Do I remember these brands, even long after I’ve seen the commercials? The answer to both questions is ‘yes, I do.’ And it’s strange – but logical – that I would remember _these_ commercials, the ones that annoy me more than entertain me, better than the ones that make me laugh. For whatever reason the human psyche tends to remember negative reactions better than it does positive ones. It is the ‘bad’ experiences we remember best, possibly because we often spend more ranting and raving about how annoyed or irked we are. So, in that sense the marketing guy has done his job and done it well.

On the other hand, though, perhaps he has not done his job so well. For people like me, who miss the humor in some of these commercials – like the Subway ads, which are obviously supposed to be humorous to a certain (male) demographic – or, like the PS3 ads, find them disturbing enough to avoid watching them a second time, the reaction is to avoid buying _anything_ from these companies. Why reward a grain of sand for falling into one’s eye, after all? I don’t have any idea how widespread this reaction is among the general populace. Perhaps most people simply disregard their annoyances and give their patronage to these companies, anyway. Perhaps brand loyalty overcomes weird, strange, and obnoxious commercials. I know I certainly haven’t done much, if any, business with any of the companies cited above. Could be I’m all wet on this.

There are certainly a lot of factors involved here, requiring anyone studying this aspect of psychology to develop a complex and comprehensive experiment to measure the effects of advertising. Obviously, it must work, else these companies wouldn’t waste their millions on them. Subway, for instance, has been running these dinner theatre ads for months now, and Geiko’s last few commercials have likewise, in my opinion, been duds. Could be I’ve just lost my sense of humor.

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