Commercial Analysis

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Lipstick on a Pig

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A well known advertising technique is to exploit people’s dissatisfaction with their own lives. Either by explicitly stating that one’s product will make their lives radically better, or by implying it (through association with wealthy/successful/attractive people, exciting events and experiences, etc). However, because this technique is so well known, it only works some of the time. The rest of the time people are aware that that’s what’s being attempted, and they come away feeling insulted rather than envious and desiring the advertised product.

In order to combat this, advertisers have two options: either they can present the objective features of the product (and hope that it sells on it’s own merits), or they can do the same thing discussed above – but without making it appear that that’s what they’re doing. This particular commercial does the latter.

GEICO’S superior method of making adjustment appointments (which, as an aside, may not even be superior, because if it were, then it probably wouldn’t be advertised in this way) is obviously not enough of an added value to the consumer’s life that it is going to change it in such a radical way so as to, for example, get him a new girlfriend. Certainly not if he also happens to be a pig. No woman is ever going to dump a man for a pig – no matter how superior the pig’s car insurance might be – and to claim that any woman would is very obviously absurd. In other words, GEICO is making the absurd claim that their product will magically cause radical changes in your life (akin to being able to get a man’s beautiful girlfriend to leave him for you, despite you being a pig), but without having to come right out and make that claim. GEICO knows that should it be confronted with the accusation that that’s what it’s doing, it can claim that it’s obviously not seriously doing that by pointing to the fact that it was using a pig. If it’s not doing that “seriously”, then why do it at all? Blank out.

What’s really happening in this commercial is that the advertisers are counting on the emotional effect of the technique of dissatisfaction-exploitation to occur (ie: creating envy), without having to deal with any blow back as result of people understanding that that’s what they’re doing (ie: resentment for having done it). They’re trying to exploit people’s lack of intellectual sophistication (ie: their inability to see that that’s what’s happening nevertheless), and hoping to be able to take advantage of their good nature in order to get away with it (ie: the thought that no advertiser would really be that manipulative. That this commercial must really just be a silly, attention-getting joke – as it purports to be).


Written by commercialanalysis

November 2, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Posted in Finance

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