Compare and contrast…

A new technological innovation is able to make judgements about people’s emotional state, and target advertising to them as a result.

An estate agency monitors Facebook accounts to target potential new customers in their area when statuses change from “Married” to “Single”.

A supermarket constructs long waiting lines at checkouts and then places sweets and chocolates at child-eye level to tap into pester-power in bored toddlers.

A department store tries to make our inner child go all warm and Christmassy by spending millions of pounds on an animated bear and hare.

The question: which is the most manipulative?

The first example, getting coverage yesterday, seems to provoke a visceral response as an unfairly manipulative technique.

The second likewise, and a story I picked up from a great coffee and chat with Chris Weston this morning. Though it should be noted that the visceral response might be due to the mention of estate agents.

The third is a particular irritation I have with Marks and Spencer who seem to thing it’s appropriate to use an unpleasant tactic that the mainstream supermarkets ditched years ago.

The final example is lauded as part of the spirit of Christmas it seems.

My point is, why do we seem to think that tapping into existing emotional states or circumstances is more manipulative than trying to change our emotions, which is a long-standing aim of so much of the advertising industry?

All of this points to the moral questions that will be increasingly posed as technology increasingly affects the ways in which marketers attempt to exert influence over our lives. And much of the response, as we enter into what appears to be a much more logic-driven world, will be anything but logical.

One thought on “Influencing emotions

  1. Interesting perspective, Matt. You and I chatted about the first and last examples on Twitter yesterday. I’m not sure it’s a question of which is most manipulative, but how they might be layered one on top of the other to reach a whole new level of creepiness. Emotion-provoking ads won’t go away with the advent of emotion-detecting technologies, after all.

    The John Lewis ad may have been designed to make my inner child go all warm and fuzzy, but to be honest I just found it a bit cheesy and unoriginal. I can imagine that if it had been pushed at me when I was in a more receptive emotional mood, however, my response could have been completely different…

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