The Power

If you had any doubt about the power of our medium to affect the minds of viewers, here are two recent articles that you might want to think about:

The first describes a review of roughly 50 scientific studies about the effects of cigarettes in the media, specifically on kids. It covers not only cigarette advertising, but also cigarette use by characters in TV shows and features. Among the conclusions: “the psychological effect of tobacco marketing or media exposure increases the odds of taking up smoking almost threefold” and “exposure to positive images of smoking increased the odds that children would smoke by about 90 percent.”

The second article talks about a brain imaging study examining the effects of branding. Strong, well identified brands produce a “pattern of activity in the part of the brain associated with positive emotions, self-identification and rewards.” In other words, looking at the logo of a strong brand not only makes you feel happy, but it makes you feel happy about yourself. Weak brands produce a response in areas associated with “negative emotion as well as memory.”

But if you ask people on the street whether they watch TV commercials, they typically tell you that they ignore them or that they have no effect on them.


And while it’s not exactly the same point, I can’t help but mentioning here the amount of money that was spent on advertising for the recent mid-term elections. The total came to no less than three billion dollars. That’s billion — with a B. But we are expected to believe that politicians are not influenced by all that money. That’s just as credible to me as the idea that advertising doesn’t affect people.

Explore posts in the same categories: Media and Society

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