Blogs & Comment

An ugly theory about advertising may be true

Ever see that movie Roger Dodger? It’s about Roger Swanson, an arrogant and morally bankrupt copywriter who gives Nick, his virginal 16-year-old nephew, a crash course in seduction during a night in New York. Swanson has plenty of outrageous lines. Among them are these on advertising:
Roger: You can’t sell a product without first making people feel bad. Nick: Why not? Roger: Because it’s a substitution game. You have to remind them that they’re missing something from their lives. Everyone’s missing something, right? Nick: I guess. Roger: Trust me. And when they’re feeling sufficiently incomplete, you convince them your product is the only thing that can fill the void. So instead of taking steps to deal with their lives, instead of working to root our the real reason for their misery, they go out and buy a stupid looking pair of cargo pants.
Swanson’s theory may be right, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research. Scientists essentially took people that consider themselves to be intelligent, made them feel a bit dumb and then asked them to choose between two parting gifts: a fountain pen or a pack of M&Msa separate experiment had shown picking the pen over M&Ms made people feel smart. In the study, 65% of the participants selected the pen. When the researchers conducted the experiment but omitted the step that caused people to feel a bit stupid, just 39% chose the pen.
Guess you can learn a thing or two from the movies.