The Logic of Advertising and Movies

logicI’d like to help understand the logic of this, if I may.

A Superbowl ad (or any ad) goes through many layers of psychological tests, and is created with the express purpose of having a person perform an action. Notice that at the end of every ad you will hear what is known as a Call To Action (CTA). This CTA may not actually say, “Get yours today,” it may just say “I’m lovin’ it.” It tells you that enough times that you actually feel as though you may actually love it, and it uses muted colours with subtle yellows in the background, a colour that is known, psychologically to be cheery and warm, while also increasing the metabolism. It may also say, “So get on down here before all the wacky inflatable arm flailing tube men are all gone and you miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” which is done to create a sense of urgency; you MUST do it SOON! There are colors specific to the product in the ad that are used to elicit an emotional response, along with music and, if we’re lucky, an announcer with a golden-throated voice that lulls us into a sense of well-being that we will now associate with that product. And on and on…

Now, let’s look at my three favourite movies: Patton, The Razor’s Edge (Bill Murray version) and The World According to Garp. Each of these movies is created with the intent of telling a story about an individual. They are not created with the intent of having someone perform an action, although there are morality plays whose thinly veiled veneers of moral platitudes are so sickeningly sweet as to be indigestible in existence. I have never wanted to be a general in the army (although Patton is more about a man that it is about a general); I have, actually, felt the urge to run away to Paris, but I felt that before I saw The Razor’s Edge (Paris or anywhere); and I have no desire to give up my writing career to become a wrestling coach.

I liked A Beautiful Mind, but I will never, ever want to do math (nor will I ever feel compelled to write on windows, though I am not ruling out the fact that I may end up talking to imaginary people at some point). Raging Bull is a motherf@#$er of a movie, but I’m not going to be a boxer, nor will I punch Joe Pesci because I heard things. You know: things. I heard things.

Therein lies the logic for that particular argument.

I’m not saying that movies, literature, or even music do not have the power to call people to action: in fact, they do, when there is an intention behind them, but I have a hard time believing that there is an intention to call people to action in Jack Reacher. There is a very clear distinction between a 30-second clip created with the sole intention of having someone perform a specific action (purchasing a product) and a movie whose sole intention is to tell a story and entertain.

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