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Andres Aullet

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Should we teach our kids about how advertisement (public relationships, marketing) works?

Let's face it, advertisement works.

But let's also admit it, it is not as simple as a creative ad shown during the superbowl or a picture on a magazine that we find funny and incidentally reminds us of some particular brand of chips, or insurance company.

As far as i know (admittedly a much more thorough research can be done), advertisement works because it exploits a few flaws in the way our subconscious work:

- we remember things best when emotion is evoked while we learn them (fear, anger, excitement). And this is due to the chemical changes that these emotions induce in our brain.

- we decide mostly with emotions, and not with reason. This seems counter intuitive to most people

- we live with the ever present contradiction of trying to be unique and trying to be like others. We like to be singled out if we are wearing nice clothing, but we hate being singled out if our pants happen to rip.

- being rejected by our peers, or not being part of the in-group we admire, actually hurts, pretty much in the same way (neurologically) as a punch in the stomach hurts

- anything repeated frequently makes a stronger memory, easier to recall, and a memory that is easier to recall is trusted more (and feels more familiar) regardless of it's veracity

- novel experiences are considered riskier than familiar experiences, regardless of their real inherent risk


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So all these factors are merged with a product and tweaked to make that product appealing and familiar to us, without us fully understanding why it feels appealing and familiar.

Now, recently the target of the advertising industry are increasingly younger kids. And I would venture to say that if many adults don't fully understand why advertisement works, then even less kids would be expected to know

Should we include in a kids education: at schools, in church sermons, at dinner table conversations, an explanation of what advertisement is and why it works? What would be an argument against teaching this?

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  • Nov 2 2012: Considering how much money was dumped into political ads this year and how many people changed their minds based on a soundbite, we must teach kids and adults how PR and marketing works. Once they can see the hand behind the message they'll not be so easily swayed.

    Frontline did a story called Big Sky Big Money and demonstrated how last minute drops of political lies can change the outcome of an election because it gives the other side no time to respond. For an educated person, last minute fliers or ads will not change their minds, but for those without critical thinking skills it can drastically affect the outcome of the election.

    I personally don't like the idea that those dumb enough to fall for such tactics are choosing our leaders.
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      Nov 2 2012: Hi Mary, thank you for your comment!

      Yes, you touch on a point that i just barely mention. How important it is for adults to get educated first and to use their critical skills... How can we hope to teach the young if we ourselves don't know/care?

      But one of the things that i am trying to highlight is that while the average person may not be aware of how easily it is to influence a decision, both politicians and the advertisement experts are very aware of it, and it gets incorporated in the strategy

      Thank you for the pointer to the frontline story

      cheers

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