How Do Advertisements Affect People’s Psychology?

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How Do Advertisements Affect People’s Psychology?

The most successful recurring themes for ads revolve around love, pride, empathy, and friendship / Photo by Antonio Guillem via 123RF


It can be difficult to go through your day without seeing at least one advertisement or commercial about something. Whether it is during the breaks of your favorite show or on the corners of your websites and phone applications, advertisements can be seen all around.

But does being constantly bombarded with these messages actually accomplish anything? Do they affect us more than we are aware?


Their Place in Society

Advertising is a large part of our modern society. After the rise of mass production, companies wanted to find ways to sell more of their products and make more people become aware of them. Many advertisements make use of what catches people’s attention. These can be flashy and pretty pictures, and in video form, they’re paired with catchy jingles and phrases. According to the University of Southern California, the average adult American is exposed to about two million 30-second TV commercials a year and will see as many as 5,000 ads a day. Online, there are about 5 trillion ads shown each year.

There are many people who believe that they would not be swayed by advertisements and would simply choose what they personally preferred or believed to be a better brand. After all, we can easily click away, flip the page, or change the channel. However, there are many ways that ads make us more open to buying one product more than others without people even realizing it.

Emotive Responses

There are a number of factors that can make an advertisement successful. Researchers found that if an advertisement had a large emotional component to it that could stir people’s emotional response, it was often more effective. This was especially true if the advert was “likable” to people. The actual content of the advertisement had far less of an influence on the consumer’s likeliness to buy the product. The most successful recurring themes for ads revolve around love, pride, empathy, and friendship.

There are two types of emotive response to such advertisements. On one hand, there are ads that make viewers empathize with the brand, such as the ones that feature animals like dogs and babies or children. On the other hand, people have an emotional response if they find the advert imaginative and creative through the way it is cast, performed, and directed, or if it has a memorable storyline.


Subconscious Attention

Most people assume that ads try to win over a consumer by showing how much better one product is than the competing product. However, this is not the case. As explained by Psychology Today, aside from just showing us what a product looks like or what it can do, they pair up things that are already likable or enjoyable along with products so that our feelings for those things become associated with the product. This technique is known as affective conditioning.

After the rise of mass production, companies wanted to find ways to sell more of their products and make more people become aware of them / Photo by Getty Images


Colors have also been heavily utilized in ad campaigns. It was found that Facebook ads that simply had colored borders around them were twice as likely to get clicked. Contrasting colors of two links with a single picture also had a 60% increase in conversion and attention.

It was found that these qualities of ads were often most effective on people when they were not aware of it. Because many people are doing other things will ads play in the periphery, something that catches your eye like a picture of a cat or a colorful border would be more likely to work.


Positives and Negatives

Advertisements are not necessarily good or evil. For many, creating ads is a form of business or a source of income, whether they are the ones directing them or creating the concept art. Ads stir competition between several different brands and help the economy. They are also a way for people to know about a product they would have otherwise never known about and gain a wider range of choices. Some ads have even been avenues for spreading public awareness about certain issues or as a method of spreading universal free speech.

However, there are also downsides to ads. They can spread unrealistic interpretations and false ideas about a certain thing. There are times, of course, that a product’s effectiveness will be over-exaggerated or will downplay the negative effects. As explained by the Medium, some may even expect a product to work in one way but it may be untrue. There are times where ads can promote a harmful product, such as alcohol or tobacco, which could increase instances of substance abuse. These could then be exposed to the young or impressionable persons who would otherwise never have tried such things had they not seen the ads.

Regardless of the ever-changing forms of media over the years, advertisements will continue to be a part of our culture as long as they remain a steady and lucrative business. We should, therefore, be more mindful of what advertisements are really selling and telling us.



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