How The Advertising Industry Embraced Fear

moredenialanddeception

Sex doesn’t sell, it’s fear. In the first episode of Mad Men (Smoke gets in your eyes) Don Draper outlines the appeal of fear as a tool for selling with chilling clarity. “Advertising is based on one thing: happiness,” he calmly tells his clients. “And do you know what happiness is? … It’s freedom from fear.”

This has been the simple quest of consumerism for the past half-century: to pinpoint with laser-like accuracy the anxieties of the consumer at any given moment, from the nebulous (economic insecurity) to the specific (bird flu). One former marketing executive from a soft drinks multinational even told me how they would brainstorm these anxieties on a “whiteboard of worry”. The purpose? To brilliantly, cunningly hone a product that offers temporary “freedom from fear”, temporary because a new fear and a new product will be on their way soon. Here are some of…

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