Media and Advertising

210247289_a06a2724cd_mPatrick Swayze died today.

I couldn’t stand the way tabloids and magazines showed photos of him over the last few months. Recent photos of the sick Patrick Swayze, battling pancreatic cancer, sunken faced and hollow eyed. Next to them, photos from his Dirty Dancing days, young and strong and vibrant and on top of the world.

Every time I stood at the supermarket checkout line, I would turn away from those photos, and wish that the media would JUST LEAVE HIM ALONE. But they didn’t, just like they didn’t leave Farrah Fawcett alone, just like they wouldn’t leave any of them alone.

Just like vultures, circling around the almost-dead, waiting patiently.

And social media wasn’t much better – rumors about Patrick Swayze’s death started circulating on Twitter long before he passed away.

Some argue that celebrities must accept this treatment by the media – that their fame and fortune must come at a price, and a big part of that price is loss of privacy. Perhaps they have a point. I still cringe whenever I see the typical media coverage of struggling celebrities – whether they struggle with illness, with weight gain, or with other personal issues such as betrayal or divorce.

Patrick Swayze cannot be hurt by the media anymore. May he rest in peace.

Photo by Alan Light


This vintage ad is a fascinating example of the psychology of advertising. The ad’s copy: “Why does she spend the evenings alone? She keeps her home immaculate, looks as pretty as she can, and really loves her husband, BUT she neglects that one essential: personal feminine hygiene. Wives often lose the precious air of romance, doctors say, for lack of the intimate daintiness dependent on effective douching. The proved efficiency of Lysol restores every woman’s confidence in her power to please.”

Translation: “Your Disgusting Vagina: Disinfect It With Lysol Or He’ll Rightfully Cheat On You.”

The psychology of advertising fascinates me. It always has. And while douching is now widely regarded as unhealthy and is no longer recommended by doctors, this ad provides a fascinating glimpse into how advertising works. I won’t even get into the obvious misogyny that lies at the very basis of this ad. The feminist issue is obvious. What I’d like to discuss is the advertising techniques used here in order to convince women to buy the product.

Ads catch our attention by appealing to our emotions. Health advertisements, such as this one, often utilize fear to get the audience’s attention. The advertiser hopes to scare the audience enough to get them to buy the product. In this case, the advertiser plays on housewives’ fear of being abandoned by their husbands. It also plays on women’s fear of their own bodies.

Another common advertising technique used here is that of authority. We tend to respect doctors and trust them – maybe less so today than back then, but doctors are still figures of authority. It’s very hard not to respond to the claim “trusted by doctors” or “recommended by pediatricians more than any other brand.” The idea is that people will respect the opinions of someone who is assumed to have a lot of knowledge about the product. People feel better knowing that someone with authority – an expert – has recommended what they are about to buy. This has been widely used in the past in cigarette ads.

The psychology of advertising is powerful. Psychology has always been used as an effective way to sell products. Understanding the underlying concepts that affect human psychology can help a company better sell their product. It can also empower consumers by helping them develop critical thinking when it comes to media and advertising. Understanding the marketing strategies that get us to buy products can help us avoid unnecessary purchases. Hopefully, it can also save our self-esteem from being badly damaged by these clever messages.

Source: Miami University; Image credit: mrbill