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Why Advertisers and News Programs Love It When You’re Emotional

I watched an episode of Black Mirror the other evening (“Crocodile”). It’s the one in Iceland, where the woman has to murder to cover her mistakes because of techie mind-reading devices.

So, I got into the car to pick up one of the kids from water polo practice. The streets were wet, the skies dark and depressing, the roads ominous in a way. Dripping eucalyptus trees surprised me with splashes at intersections.

My mood was weird and fearful.

That’s what good TV and movies do to you. They get into your limbic system, your lizard brain, and take over. Long after the production is over, you carry around the feel of the emotional buttons pushed.

You can carry around fear, loneliness, desperation, jealousy, suspicion, elation, comfort and any number of other emotions.

Advertisers love this. It’s why ads for home security systems follow news segments about robberies and murders. It’s why pharma ads follow the health segment on the daytime talk show.

You are much more impressionable once you’ve adopted the emotions the producers want you to take on.

Interestingly, that Black Mirror episode didn’t come bundled with any post-show advertising. If it did, I’d be considering purchasing a weapon, deleting my social media accounts, or withdrawing from society altogether!

If you ask most people, by the way, they’ll tell you they’re immune to advertising messages. That doesn’t jibe with ad industry executives who know that it works and spend billions of dollars every year to set the gears in motion. TV ads take time to sink in, but they work.

Ask yourself, do you own a home security system? Have you ever used a doctor-prescribed pharmaceutical drug? Do you occasionally purchase fast food in moments of vulnerability? Do you have a favorite mass-produced beer? Do you buy insurance from one of the companies that advertises on TV?

Those decisions, subtle and calculated as they seem, are formed over years of media consumption. You don’t see an ad for Budweiser and then purchase immediately (ok, sometimes). The behavior for brand loyalty and lifestyle alignment are cultivated over time.

It’s only when you make snap judgments in a store that the conditioning takes effect. You’re in a crappy mini-mart on a road trip, and there’s no high-quality IPA in the fridge. You have a choice. Bud, Coors or Miller? You pick the one you identified with via the ads. That choice may have been formed as far back as your high school years, when your peer group pooled their influence neurons (shaped by TV ads) and decided as a group to make Coors Light, the “silver bullet,” your beer of choice.

It’s a complex process. But, no, you’re not immune to advertising influence.

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