Skip to main content

Advertising: A Catechism

Q. Why do marketers of a range of products spend as much money as they do on advertising?

A. BecauImage result for Super Bowl clipartse they want to sell more products. You don't have to be Don Draper to figure that one out.

Q. But why does it increase the demand for the advertised products? Let's focus on broadcast commercials, and on competition within a particular industry: how does the radio/TV exposure cause people to want brand X rather than brand Y, assuming that they want the generic type of product to which both X and Y belong?

A. The marketers of X try to persuade people that X is better.

Q. Yes, I understand. But isn't the public long since jaded? How does persuasion work, if we assume that consumers are rational? [Rational consumers certainly would be jaded about the content of broadcast ads, would they not?]

A. One possible answer to that is that rational consumers, regardless of the content of the ad, measure the likely expense of the advertising campaign. The amount of money that the sellers of X are willing to spend on ads gives the impression that they are confident of quality. They are confident that if they can get you to try X once ("just one sip" in the case of a beverage) their quality will do the rest and make you a repeat customer.

Q: Ah, so the actual content of the ad, the clever slogan or jingle that ad people presumably obsess over, don't really matter?

A. Not on this hypothesis no, except of course to the extent that it indicates high production values, that is, high expense.


  1. Perhaps a consumer's mere exposure to a brand name of a product increases the likelihood that he or she will choose that brand. Isn't that the theory behind political billboards, lawn signs, and bumper stickers that state a candidate's name without offering a reason to vote for him or her?


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Great Chain of Being

One of the points that Lovejoy makes in the book of that title I mentioned last week is the importance, in the Neo-Platonist conceptions and in the later development of the "chain of being" metaphor, of what he calls the principle of plenitude. This is the underlying notion that everything that can exist must exist, that creation would not be possible at all were it to leave gaps.

The value of this idea for a certain type of theodicy is clear enough.

This caused theological difficulties when these ideas were absorbed into Christianity.  I'll quote a bit of what Lovejoy has to say about those difficulties:

"For that conception, when taken over into Christianity, had to be accommodated to very different principles, drawn from other sources, which forbade its literal interpretation; to carry it through to what seemed to be its necessary implications was to be sure of falling into one theological pitfall or another."

The big pitfalls were: determinism on the on…

A Story About Coleridge

This is a quote from a memoir by Dorothy Wordsworth, reflecting on a trip she took with two famous poets, her brother, William Wordsworth, and their similarly gifted companion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

We sat upon a bench, placed for the sake of one of these views, whence we looked down upon the waterfall, and over the open country ... A lady and gentleman, more expeditious tourists than ourselves, came to the spot; they left us at the seat, and we found them again at another station above the Falls. Coleridge, who is always good-natured enough to enter into conversation with anybody whom he meets in his way, began to talk with the gentleman, who observed that it was a majestic waterfall. Coleridge was delighted with the accuracy of the epithet, particularly as he had been settling in his own mind the precise meaning of the words grand, majestic, sublime, etc., and had discussed the subject with William at some length the day before. “Yes, sir,” says Coleridge, “it is a majestic wate…