Archive for the ‘State of the Union address’ Category

Fear Sells (advertisers and politicians know it and exploit it)

October 13, 2007

Poor Edna. She was one great-looking woman, so it was strange that she couldn’t land a husband. And nobody would tell her why she was often a bridesmaid but never a bride … The reason Edna was headed for spinsterhood was breath so offensive that “even your best friends won’t tell you.”

The above was an advertisement that Listerine Mouthwash ran in 1923. The ploy worked: the company sold tanker loads of Listerine.

This advertisement gives us a window into how we can be manipulated by appeals to our fears and insecurities. Advertisers know it and exploit it. So do politicians.

In his State of the Union address on January 28, 2003, President Bush said that Saddam Hussein was pursuing weapons of mass destruction and invited listeners to imagine what would have happened if Saddam had given any to the 9/11 hijackers: “It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known.”

This appeal to fear helped generate overwhelming public support for the war.

FUD – fear, uncertainty and doubt. Advertisers exploit it to sell their products. Politicians exploit it to sell their policies.

Fear has been a staple tactic of advertisers and politicians for so long you would think that we would have become better at detecting their use of it. But fear and insecurity can still cloud our judgment.

Here’s the lesson in a nutshell: “If it’s scary, be wary.”

Unspun by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson