Advertising is usually portrayed as something that drains brainpower rather than augments it. Science fiction authors like Phillip K. Dick were obsessed with painting dystopian futures like those portrayed in Blade Runner and Minority Report in which the average person was regularly assaulted with incessant advertising messages that prevented them from focusing on anything.
To a certain extent, that’s true. The cognitive surplus created by technology tempts advertisers to bombard viewers with persuasive imagery and text focused on getting a piece of their viewers’ brains.
But is that pernicious vision of what advertising is – a drag on cognition – what it’s all about?
The Educational Value of Advertising
There are many different types of advertising with multiple goals. But one of its most important is the ability of advertising to teach readers and viewers about new products that they may not be aware of.
For example, if I search for “hearing aid” on Google, I see 14 different advertisements. The ads range from hearing aids costing nearly $400, assisted hearing phones, and those offered through a $20 per month payment plan. In the regular search results, I see some informative articles along with a listing of hearing aid centers in my area.
If you take out the advertising, it’s a longer slog for the consumer to cogitate that information by themselves. The advertising teaches the reader an array of options in less than a few seconds.
The enhanced targeting of advertising makes it easier for advertisers to make sure that messages are both relevant and educational. Facebook is beginning to do an excellent job with this; mostly only sending ads relevant to the users’ interests – and soon, actual purchasing habits.
Why should people buy what you’re selling?