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

England as a Raft?

In a lecture delivered in 1880, William James asked rhetorically, "Would England ... be the drifting raft she is now in European affairs if a Frederic the Great had inherited her throne instead of a Victoria, and if Messrs Bentham, Mill, Cobden, and Bright had all been born in Prussia?"

Beneath that, in a collection of such lectures later published under James' direction, was placed the footnote, "The reader will remember when this was written."

The suggestion of the bit about Bentham, Mill, etc. is that the utilitarians as a school helped render England ineffective as a European power, a drifting raft.

The footnote was added in 1897. So either James is suggesting that the baleful influence of Bentham, Mill etc wore off in the meantime or that he had over-estimated it.

Let's unpack this a bit.  What was happening in the period before 1880 that made England seem a drifting raft in European affairs, to a friendly though foreign observer (to the older brother…

Cancer Breakthrough

Hopeful news in recent days about an old and dear desideratum: a cure for cancer. Or at least for a cancer, and a nasty one at that.

The news comes about because investors in GlaxoSmithKline are greedy for profits, and has already inspired a bit of deregulation to boot. 

The FDA has paved the road for a speedy review of a new BCMA drug for multiple myeloma, essentially cancer of the bone marrow. This means that the US govt has removed some of the hurdles that would otherwise (by decision of the same govt) face a company trying to proceed with these trials expeditiously. 

This has been done because the Phase I clinical trial results have been very promising. The report I've seen indicates that details of these results will be shared with the world on Dec. 11 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. 

The European Medicines Agency has also given priority treatment to the drug in question. 

GSK's website identifies the drug at issue as "GSK2857916," althou…

Francesco Orsi

I thought briefly that I had found a contemporary philosopher whose views on ethics and meta-ethics checked all four key boxes. An ally all down the line.

The four, as regular readers of this blog may remember, are: cognitivism, intuitionism, consequentialism, pluralism. These represent the views that, respectively: some ethical judgments constitute knowledge; one important source for this knowledge consists of quasi-sensory non-inferential primary recognitions ("intuitions"); the right is logically dependent upon the good; and there exists an irreducible plurality of good.

Francesco Orsi seemed to believe all of these propositions. Here's his website and a link to one relevant paper:

What was better: Orsi is a young man. Born in 1980. A damned child! Has no memories of the age of disco!

So I emailed him asking if I was right that he believed all of those things. His answer: three out of …