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Don't kid yourself. Companies aren't around to help you, they're around to make money. In order to make money, they have developed increasingly sophisticated techniques for convincing people to buy their products. Look at ads from the 1950s compared with today.

Now think theory of evolution. Companies that don't develop good advertising techniques die. The methods used today to make people want to buy certain products have become sooo clever... I failed the advertising component of 6th form English beacause I was so extremely disgusted by what they were teaching us (I still learned the techniques well though. Know thine enemy and all that).

What we were taught was how to implant messages and associations into people's subconscious minds without them noticing. We were 16 and they taught us to do this, I shudder to think what sort of things go on on the boardrooms of advertising executives as you move up the food chain.

I developed this technique without meaning to, it's just one of those things that springs out of me thinking everything in my environment is out to get me for reasons fair or foul. Watch advertisements. Watch them like a mouse might watch a circling hawk. Dissect them in your mind, figure out what they want you to think and how they make you think it. Think about how valid or invalid the message itself is. Many people just watch advertisements in the same slow-wave state they watch the rest of TV in, not analysing, and so the techniques in the advertisements work. They depend for their success on a sort of half-attention being paid to them - this allows the message they are pushing to be absorbed without critique by your reason. You associate cars with sex, or success with beer, or giving money to the bank with a stable happy family. By pulling the symbolism and innuendo in advertisements to pieces you train your mind to evaluate the validity of the messages it's receiving.

I've heard multiple references to the over-analytical nature of everythingians, so maybe I'm preaching to the converted.

I've heard multiple references to the over-analytical nature of everythingians, so maybe I'm preaching to the converted.

Maybe, but I continue to be astonished that ads work at all given that they tend to be repeated during programs, and just in general, far beyond what I could imagine is most people's tolerance level for annoyance. Once is interesting, the second time is amusing (if the commercial is) and has repetition value, but the 19th iteration is simply insufferable. By the time I've reached saturation (about 3 for even the most amusing commercials) every repetition makes me more actively annoyed at the product, and by #19 I'm prancing around the apartment ranting that I'd rather have needles in my eyes than buy a Ford Taurus, or whatever.

This is particularly annoying for sporting events, where there is a "sponsorship" model, instead of the usual (in the U.S. anyway) "packaged demographics" model, where advertisers buy a level of viewership and type of demographic, but are not necessarily guaranteed airing during particular programs. Sports, especially feature events like the Grand Slam tennis matches or the (American) football "bowls" (Super, Rose, etc) tend to choose a few premiere sponsors whose commericals you see over and over and over. That's fine as a revenue model, I suppose, but couldn't they at least air a variety of commercials?

IANAP (I-am-not-a-psychologist), but I am particularly suspect of the kinds of studies that I imagine are done to justify this kind of repetition-until-you-are-ready-to-go-postal advertising. In my conspiratorial mind I imagine that it goes something like this: some hapless subjects are put into a room, shown commercials for Ford trucks until their eyeballs begin to bleed, and then they are given a series of tests perhaps a day or week later and asked to name a kind of truck off the top of their heads. It's obviously more sophisticated than that, but I can't get around the fact that ultimately it just has to reduce to that. Maybe after I've had time to cool down I really do have Ford cars imprinted upon my subconscious, and it makes me more likely to buy one on the margin, but I'm quite sure it's not making me a fan in the short run.

Then again, perhaps I'm over-analytical.

A country where the presence of ad resistance training is notable is Germany. East Germany. After the reunification Germany quickly became a single economy. Soon, however, marketing companies realised that the advertising used in what used to be West Germany did not work at all in die neue Länder. Apparantly many years of dictatorship with a vigorous propaganda machine had given the population some immunity to that kind of indoctrination. Advertising campaigns in Germany therefore have two kinds of advertisements: manipulative ones in the west, and more informative ones in the east.

One method I use to resist advertisements is this: look at the ad and ask "what does it want me to do and what reasons has it given me for doing it?" Really. Most ads, as sophistocated as they are, boil down to an actual command. I see ads that command me to "click here!" (or, Call this number! or, Buy me!), in so many words. And, please, unless the ad gives a real reason to click here, don't. Also, any exclamation points in an ad should be automatically removed. They don't count for anything but to make you think that the subject is exciting, when of course it isn't.

A rhetorical tool to resist persuasive messages (pitches) is to strip all adjectives and most adverbs completely from the text; omit the least verifiable components of the argument you're being pitched.

"Read" only the verbs, their subjects and objects, and the conjunctions and prepositions that stitch them up. This is like Strunk's hammer on subjectivity, and shows more clearly the pitch's center of gravity.

If facts are being presented then the center of gravity has weight. On the other hand, if trimming the adjectives deflates the argument, then its force was in its editorial description rather than its relevant facts.

This was part of the concept underlying David Ogilvy's philosophy of advertising, and the reason Ogilvy & Mather tended to produce ads dense with carefully reasoned text rather than photos of celebrities, kids and pretty young women.

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