10 Things You Need To Know About Advertising

Ads are everywhere, and they’re designed to trick you. These 10 facts about advertising will make you smarter than the average consumer.

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1. Colour Makes a Difference

A series of American studies carried out in 2012 found that hues had an effect on consumer opinions about a brand’s “personality” – red is associated with excitement, blue with competence. “You might be influenced by colour without even knowing it,” says Nellie Kim of the Canadian ad agency lg2.

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2. Ads Make You Impulsive

We view products more favourably, and react without much thought, if we believe a deal won’t last. If a purchase suddenly feels urgent, take a few minutes to reflect on your decision before you buy. Not acting on your impulses is tricky though – it’s estimated that we take in as many as 5,000 ads per day.

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Red wine being poured into two wine glasses
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3. Ads Want You to Make Assumptions

Consumers make assumptions about a product’s quality based on where it comes from, says Alan Middleton, a professor of marketing at York University’s Schulich School of Business in Toronto. For example, you’ll often hear French accents in perfume ads or Italian inflections in food commercials. Fortunately, reliable reviews will keep facts from being lost in translation.

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4. Ads Play With Your Emotions

Ads appeal to our emotions, not our brain, says Middleton. One 2014 Chinese study found that songs with nostalgic value could leave buyers feeling good and make ads more effective – think of Volvo’s commercial with Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits to Enya’s “Only Time.” Don’t be seduced by the soundtrack.

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Boy watching television
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5. Keep Ads Away From Kids

Studies have linked food commercials aimed at children with obesity and bad eating habits, such as snacking between mealtimes or associating unhealthy foods with fun.

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6. One Screen at a Time

Try to concentrate on a single screen. People who engage with multiple devices at once are less effective at filtering out distraction (read: ads).

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Woman shopping for perfume
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7. Ads Say Expensive Is Better-It Isn’t

Challenge preconceived notions with a blind taste test. In a 2008 study, subjects were told they were sampling five wines of varying prices. In reality, only three different wines were used (two were repeats). Some samples were priced at their retail value, while others were marked up or down. Participants claimed to prefer the “expensive” options. Pricing influenced their perception of taste.

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8. Think Twice About Donating

Don’t be fooled by charity logos and ribbons on products, says Kim. Many believe that when they buy these goods, part of the sale goes to a cause. In reality, brands may only pay a licensing fee to use the logo.

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9. Read the Fine Print

A 2013 study found that consumers who watched pharmaceutical ads which contained health warnings couldn’t recall the details of the advisory – only the fact that one was made. The alerts gave buyers the impression that the drug company was trustworthy. Remember this the next time you purchase medication.

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Interior of busy shopping mall
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10. Ads Know Your Favourite Seasons

There’s a psychology to advertising that people often forget. A 2010 Canadian study found that people spent more on sunny days. Marketers know this: in February 2015, for example, Mark’s offered a weather-based discount – the colder it was, the better the savings.

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