The Vault, August 2011: You are the Target
Ads are fun. They make us laugh and introduce us to new products. Plus, ad revenues help pay for TV shows, magazines, and online media we enjoy. But don’t forget: ads have only one purpose—to get you to buy stuff.
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Ads are everywhere
Advertisers will do just about anything to reach you. Here are some surprising places that you might find advertising.
- Newsgroups, blogs, and chat rooms: Is your online “friend” obsessed with certain products or brands? They might be getting paid to promote them.
- Schools: Companies provide technology, educational materials, and more in exchange for getting in front of students.
- Place names: Corporations pay big bucks to name stadiums, parks, schools, and even subway systems after themselves. Every time you say the name of the place, you’re advertising for that company.
- In entertainment: That action hero isn’t drinking Gatorade by accident—the company paid to put it in his hand. It’s called “product placement” and it’s at work almost any time you see real brands in TV shows, movies, and even video games.
Keep a level head
Ads try to bypass your rational brain and go for your emotions. If they can convince you that a product will make you feel good, it’s harder to say no. The best way to avoid being taken in is to think before you buy.
Ask questions. What emotion is the ad targeting? Is it really going to live up to its promises? Are there cheaper options? Do you really need it?
Have a budget and stick to it. It’s way easier to say “no” when you have financial goals.
Don’t buy on impulse. If you see something you want, wait a day—it may not seem like such a great purchase tomorrow.