Imagine this scenario. You are planning to buy a new car, conducting your research, browsing car websites, visiting showrooms, and even test driving a few cars. Every time you open your internet browser, you get a pop up ad from a car dealer or from one of your favourite car brands. However, you are still undecided. Can you imagine seeing a car TV commercial or flashy billboard vividly in your dreams as you sleep? Who would have placed the commercial there? The ad or PR agency of one of the cars you are considering. This may sound like science fiction- but not for long. This unreal scenario may be closer than we think.
Getting related auto-complete suggestions in our internet search bar based on our browsing behaviour and search history is now normal, though still surprising and disturbing. Using algorithms and a number of synchronized technological systems, Google, Microsoft, Bing, and other search engines are able to analyze our browsing behaviour and customize the advertisements being flashed repeatedly into your browser. They are also able to predict your desires and future buying decisions using advanced technology and data analytics.
The intrusion of advertising into our daily lives could soon take any turn. The playback of commercials in our dreams is an indication of the possible shape of things to come in the world of advertising. A new science fiction novel titled “Branded Dreams” is already getting advertising and public relations agencies drooling! The new science feature jets us into the future digital world and plays out a scenario where companies buy premium advertising space in the most effective place, our heads and dreams.
The appearance of commercial messaging in our dreams may just be the advertising industry’s next attempt on their relentless quest to pursue and persuade consumers to purchase their products both day and night. The purchase journey of desire, intention, and final purchase would be drastically shortened if this most unorthodox advertising tool became a reality. This futuristic shortcut of beaming you commercials to your mind in your sleep is the advertiser's ultimate dream and the destruction of the consumer's last wall of defence.
Get ready for your sleep and dreams disruption
Adverts and PR messages follow us everywhere we go. Commercials hit us as we wake up once we turn or the TV or radio. As we take the train or bus, the adverts trail you as well, posted all over stations. There is no escape in your car as the persuasive messages pleading for you to buy this or that are interwoven between great music or breaking news stories you enjoy listening to. When you get to work and turn on your computer, those clever ads are lurking all over your screen. You are just a click away from the promise of a good life or an answer to all your problems.
Throughout your work day, advertisements never stop competing and luring your attention away from other things. After work, you decide to swing by the gym for a quick workout. As you warm up on the treadmill, you have a screen on your machine pumping out upbeat music and the latest news…and of course, more ceaseless advertisements. You get home and as you relax after dinner, watching the news or a big game, the adverts are still there. Finally, you go to bed. Free at last from advertising’s implicit invasion and persuasion.
Sleep can be seen as the last tech-free frontier in modern humanity. For now, our dreams are the unreachable and commercial-free zones that we are used to. But is this soon ending? The Branded Dreams science fiction trope has highlighted the possibility of advertisers entering our dreams. The PR and advertising industries are already deploying scientific techniques to enter our minds. The latest research and developments in brain science technology strongly indicate that the invasion of our dreams is one of the many creative ways advertisers will be attempting to further infiltrate our minds with their tools of persuasion.
Advertising, Science and Neuromarketing
Advertising and science are coming together to create hybrid technology utilizing the resources of both fields, becoming more tightly interwoven than ever before. One of these outcomes is Neuromarketing. This new field of marketing communications applies technology and science to determine a consumer’s internal and subconscious reaction to products and brand names. Insights into consumer thinking and behaviour are gleaned by the study of consumers’ cerebral mechanisms. Neuromarketing explores the close relationship between our emotional and rational thinking and reveals how the human brain responds to marketing stimuli. Advertisements and key messages can then be formatted to trigger particular segments of the brain, to influence our buying decision in a split second.
The frequency illusion and the “Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon” is another theory being dropped into the field of advertising. The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon occurs after we see a product or advertisement, or we encounter something for the first time and suddenly start seeing it almost everywhere we look. Also known as the "the frequency illusion,” it is triggered by two processes. When we first encounter a new word, concept or experience, our brains are intrigued by it and send out a message so that our eyes unconsciously start looking out for it and consequently find it often. What we seek, we tend to find. This selective attention is followed by the next step in the brain known as “confirmation bias,” meant to further assure that you are coming to the right conclusion.
Advertisers understand this theory, which is why nurturing and repetition is a key component in all successful advertising and marketing. Once you click on a particular website or initiate a specific search, you are almost immediately inundated with pop-up ads or reminder messages. The whole idea is to trigger the senses that make you feel the product or service is everywhere. Naturally, this gives the decision to buy a greater sense of urgency or at least ensures that the consumer’s initial desire stays warm, and does not move from intent to indifference.
In the future, advertising and PR will become more science and tech driven, as advertisers seek imaginative ways to reach our subconscious systems. Consumers will barely have an escape route.
Charles O'Tudor, a Global Brands Strategist, CEO of Adstrat and ‘Brands to Watch’, sees “emotional branding” as the future of advertising. He explained that, “persuasive advertising is the development and deployment of emotional content in promoting a product. With stiff competition and myriad of competitive brands consumers now have more options across all categories. This has created a ‘push-pull’ effect and a greater power of choice. Advertising of the future will have increasing emotional component.”
In a narrative to the Future of Everything, Courtney Herd, CEO of Smarter Searches predicted that “the future of advertising will be a completely customized and subjective experience – each person will have different interactions with brands that are tailored to their own preferences and purchasing behaviors. The type of personalization in ad delivery that you will see in the future will far surpass current capabilities in remarketing, geofencing and beacons. The types of ads we see in movies set 50-100 years in the future aren’t far off for us.”
Michael Quintos, Founder of Digital Ad Agency echoed, “future advertising will be less intrusive and more engaging. Many brands still think digital is a megaphone where they read their messages. Consumer want authentic engagement. Short, branded content on social platforms blending content with value. This direction is more engaging.”
As we can see, as products and brands battle for an increasing amount of space in our outside environment and internal conscious, marketing agencies will continue to apply scientific theories, new tech, and psychological persuasion. Consumers will have fewer and fewer places to hide from the crafty tricks of advertising.