Last year in my Integrated Marketing Communications capstone class, a peer of mine asked the professor if advertisers actually believed that watching a 30 second commercial could prompt people at home to leave their houses, get in a car, drive to store, and make a purchase. My professor responded by saying that advertising should be studied as a psychological phenomenon, rather than a business one. What most people don't realize is that there is a lot of cognitive psychology that goes into designing a billboard or producing the 15 second promotion we scroll past on Instagram. Factors such as the audience’s age, location, marital status, and favorite TV programs are considered so that various advertisements reach the right people, at the right time, in the right place.
Thus, considering that social media ads are supposed to engage and persuade audiences on an unconscious level, I personally can remember a couple of times where I have gone to the store and picked out a product I saw on Instagram. For instance, a few Christmases ago, I remember scrolling past a popular and catchy advertisement on Instagram for a high-end chocolate candy called Ferrero Rocher. The advertisement had painted this candy in the most delectable enticing way that when I went to the store and walked by the candy aisle, I could not resist trying the product to see just how good it was. I even took it home to have my sisters and I do a taste test. Needless to say, it was the most disappointing tasting experience of my life. My sisters and I simultaneously vowed never to put anything that disgusting in our mouths ever again. We ended up giving the rest of the candy to our niece and she actually enjoyed the taste.
Another time I've been persuaded to make an online purchase based on a social media ad was on Facebook. After scrolling through clothing catalog websites for fun and adding clothing items to my cart, I closed the website. A week later, I went on to Facebook just to find an ad for the exact clothing item I'd been looking at previously. Being reminded about it pushed me to click and actually purchase the dress I'd been eyeing. While it is rare that I would immediately respond to an ad by making a purchase, I still however believe we are influenced to make decisions based on what is familiar and that is the job of social media advertisements.
Janice Nyam, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s Fall 2018 Media Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response to the following question: Do advertisements on social media actually entice you to use the products / services advertised?