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The Selfishness of Modern Advertising

Admittedly, I’m a bit of a traffic snob; certain things bother me a little more than they should. None more than in the brief moments well past the yellow light, milliseconds before the red, when that one car tries to sneak by. As a result, leaving themselves in the middle of the intersection causing delays for the “law abiding” citizens on the opposite side now unable to turn. A decision made to benefit ourselves at the direct expense of others – selfishness.

Hundreds maybe even thousands of times, we are inundated with brands, advertising, and subtle reminders of what society says we need. Our complex brains are constantly taking in data whether we realize it or not. There is just no way our minds are capable of comprehending this many figures without short-circuiting, although I’m sure that is the plotline of some 80’s unwatched blockbuster VHS in my basement. In the real world our defense mechanism against this bombardment is a personalized filter system that sorts out most of what is and isn’t relevant to our current lives. Two things override that filter - change and importance.

Change is obvious; bright colours, flashing lights, movement, essentially all of the things our traffic system employs to get instant attention. These sudden differences let your brain know “Hey, look here now.” 

Ever hear your name in a conversation across the room amidst your own discussion? That’s importance. Your brain was listening all along taking in all the information on a subliminal level but you only became aware of it when that news was suddenly relevant to you. Humans are inherently and unintentionally selfish - we filter out all this data simply because it doesn’t relate to us right here, right now.

This concept of importance takes on a whole new level of meaning when considered from an advertising perspective. How much more valuable would advertising be if it were well-positioned in locations where the audience would deem it important to them?

For example, I’m now 33 years old. Things could change but so far, I’m estimating 99.99% of my life, auto commercials and used car newspaper inserts are deemed unimportant to me. However, that 0.01%, that window when I have to purchase, all of these previously ignored things hold much more importance. They will be laid out across the kitchen counter, I’m googling specs, reading reviews and making calls. Suddenly, the vehicle I have my eye on seems to be every other car on the road and even after purchase, I’m taking notice to ensure I got a good deal. Quite selfish, isn’t it? 

Instead of attempting to blanket everyone, What if advertising could happen to the people in this bracket?

This is truly the wonder of online advertising mediums like Facebook who have the unfair advantage of information because we tell them all about ourselves. Much like your mother, Facebook knows where you’ve visited and what you been up to, they just won’t tell you exactly how. Bits of information are stored on websites everywhere and this anonymous data is kept - allowing advertisers access to a pool of “people who might be” interested in your product.  Simply put, they know your potential audience better than you do. If you aren’t familiar with Twitter keywords, Instagram ads, and taking advantage of your friend who knows everything about everybody (Facebook) then you are missing a very significant piece of the advertising puzzle.

Here is a not-so-creative idea looking at examples of how Facebook and other social media platforms have that edge over traditional advertising. Hypothetically, you get engaged this weekend, what’s the first thing you do? Scream, ok but after that? You call all your close friends and then change your facebook status to “engaged” to notify the masses. That status change means that you have now become the prime target of wedding planners, photographers, caterers and so many other local businesses. This approach ensures your dollars are hitting a market previously uninterested that now has reason to consider your company. Advertising dollars well spent if you are asking me.

Of course, it gets much more detailed and complicated than this. It does take some intelligence, strategy and a little trial and error combined with a well thought out website but the possibilities are there to target your marketing.

Utilizing social media for business gives you an unfair advantage, and what business owner doesn’t love having an edge on the competition. Even business owners can be “selfish” after all.