Does TV advertising still work?

A friend of mine told me the other day how her daughter demanded she buy her a toy she’d seen advertised on TV. She is barely three and still learning her vocabulary, but she was able to pronounce the rather complicated name of this toy without difficulty. Despite her parents’ frugal outlook on life, the power of TV advertising had persuaded her that she couldn’t live without this wretched item.

I am well aware of the phenomenon of kids’ pester power. However, I still couldn’t help but find this incident a bit sinister. Oddly enough, I’d been wondering lately whether television advertising still works. I am struggling to think of any products I have been persuaded to buy recently simply because I’ve seen them advertised on TV. Mostly when the commercials come on they are so loud and intrusive that I press the mute button until the programme I’m watching returns. Some ads are funny, of course. I enjoy the ones for heavy duty kitchen roll, for example, with the burly men in drag, but when I go to the supermarket to buy kitchen paper I don’t remember them and reach instead for the cheap or recycled own brand version. Watching Mark Addy and Fay Ripley browsing for wine in Tesco’s does not make me want to jump in the car and go there for some Pino Grigio either. The only exception may be the current ad for Galaxy chocolate, but then I suppose everybody has their Achilles heel…

But while some adults may be part-immune to advertising after years of bombardment with TV ads, our children haven’t inherited our immunity. They are still like sponges, waiting to soak it all up and pester Mum and Dad – the miniature puppets of some advertising mogul and his corporate client. How horrifying. No wonder the French have banned advertising mobiles to children under the age of 12. And while I’d question whether advertising still has the power to make adults buy specific brands, I think many of us still labour under the illusion that we have to have certain possessions to make us feel successful. It’s hard to know whether this is a product of advertising and the media or an innate competitive ‘survival of the fitness’ need to better ourselves and outdo our peers from a financial or material standpoint.

I have just started reading a book by the psychologist Oliver James called Affluenza. In it he argues that in the West we are all suffering from the ‘affluenza virus’. The ‘virus’, he claims, makes us obsessed with ‘keeping up with the Joneses´ and chasing material wealth to the detriment of our own mental well being. He believes that our obsession with the material things in life is making us more vulnerable to emotional distress and depression when we fail to measure up to these overblown expectations.

While reading through his ‘do you have affluenza quiz’ at the start of the book, I was shocked to find that I had some of the symptoms, despite my attempts to live frugally over the past 18 months. Sounds like I still have some way to go…

Do you think TV advertising still has a hold over us? Do you worry about keeping up with the Joneses or has the recession changed your outlook on this?  Leave a message and let me know.

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6 Responses to Does TV advertising still work?

  1. Rik says:

    I\’ve been pretty immune to t.v. ads for ages, if I want/need something I tend to research it the best I can (for more expensive goods at least). I do the same as you when they come on, press mute, I\’m glad someone else has also noticed the volume goes up with the ads too, so annoying!As for using kids, I hate that, it\’s what McD\’s and such used to do all the time (they probably still do but I tend to not look at the ads as well as turn the volume off!). To be honest I watch very little t.v. now and wouldn\’t miss it if it was thrown out, (You can bet your life they\’d still say you had to have a licence though, in case you watched it on the p.c. even though it doesn\’t work on ours!).

  2. Bill says:

    Hi there, piper/Rik!Working in reverse order, I have been heavilly threatened form the civil service, that, even without a goggle box, & no tuning card on my laptop, I still yet need to buy a licence. They are welcome to check my laptop, anytime/place, just as they are welcome to check the tyres on Bertha. Why are they so paranoid/arrogant?I have so little time for the goggle box, but do watch daytime Aussie soap, as also the BBC news once or twice daily, time permitting. Spending several days away most weeks, leaves me completely devoid of g box. I have researched the laptop possibilities, including usb, as also simple download of a tuning card. Any system would obviously be essential to my \’phone mp3/radio. For a mere £30, it could still yet happen.But, why do I need 2,000 channels?Sadly, I find the adverts are a catch 22. They are oft far better quality than the programms they sponsor/support. Thankfully, I am now big, & old enough, to ignore almost every advert, as a means of blood-pressure stability.When I need to source something, I use IT research, including eBay & amazon, to locate & price. This includes vehicles etc., as also real estate.As for Affluenza, it is possible that I am immune, or simply a tight-wad, in my caes, either or both are genetically inherent!When I have time, I will certainly check-out the book from Oliver James.I am not yet prepared for the change to digi tv, if I add some form of tuning to the laptop, I may simply add a 24" external monitor on the wall at home. Or I could simply wait until it is too late, thereby gaining a set-top box for nout, or even less.

  3. Rik says:

    Bill, a friend recently bought some sort of usb plug in device for his laptop to receive t.v. I don\’t remember where it was from (could\’ve been Aldi?) but I think it was only about £20ish. It was for use in his caravan and as far as I know, worked o.k. I\’ll see if I can find any details.

  4. Gill says:

    We watch tv a lot in my house but we\’ve always pretty much ignored the ads apart from enjoying some for their entertainment value. I have a 16 and a 20 year old who\’ve never pestered me for things they see advertised \’cos I\’ve brought them up not to ask or demand! Too many parents seems to have lost the art of saying no! I also don\’t buy stuff constantly, they get a birthday present of their choice and give me a Christmas list from which I buy what I can within budget, but when they were younger we didn\’t buy toys etc any other time apart from an occasional treat if they\’d done well at school for example or as a school holiday treat. Now they both fund themselves and don\’t seem to go shopping very often or all that bothered by ads. If we buy something we tend to research it online and find the best price before buying. I don\’t care about keeping up with the Joneses and in fact I\’ve cooled a friendship a few years ago because I couldn\’t stand seeing the latest new gadget/car/outfit everytime we met up, I felt quite uncomfortable and prefer to be around people who have more interesting lives.

  5. nicola says:

    I have two children (and one on the way)! They are six and four. Needless to say, they watch adverts all the time. However I have explained to them that adverts are designed to make people WANT that product. They know from experience, that items do not always do (in real life) as they do on the advert. I think it was a Thomas Aqua Draw that we purchased a couple of chistmas\’s ago for my eldest, that did not work as it was supposed to. Thankfully, they both remember this, and realise that most of what they are watching isn\’t true. Saying that, they are influenced by them, and will say the slogans, and when in the cleaning aisle in the supermarket they will ask me if I use \’cillit bang\’ haha. Cos apparently, if I use it, my house will be clean and sparkly.

  6. piper says:

    I\’m really pleased to hear that kids are learning ads don\’t always do what they say on the tin! That\’s great.

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