Twelve Ways Advertisers Insult Consumers


Advertising sells products. Yet, for all the time advertisers spend trying to make their products stand out, many ads don’t seem to be very well thought out. In fact, many of them have the opposite of the intended effect on me. More often than I would expect, I see an advertisement that either insults my intelligence or makes false assumptions about me. In those cases, the advertisers have done more harm than good by decreasing the likelihood I will by their product. Here are twelve such approaches:

“Everyone needs one of these – it’s a ‘must-have.'” This lie is so common that it’s almost cliché. I have never seen a specific product that everyo


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16 Responses to Twelve Ways Advertisers Insult Consumers

  1. eden says:

    You forgot the most offensive advertising ploy – Releasing advertising directed at a specific demographic, which is insulting to other demographics, on a wide-demographic media. The most blatent examples of this are on television.

  2. Jason says:

    While it might seem like good blog material to rail against advertisers, they are only doing what has been proven most effective. All the “insulting ploys” you listed are methods of propaganda and persuasion that work. Sure some people see though them, but many others are effected by them enough to be properly (according to the advertiser) persuaded.

    By the way, the same underlying propaganda methods are used by politicians, religious leaders, and dictators worldwide. As evil as he was, Hilter was a master of using propaganda like this to further his methods. Of course the same can be said for our current administration.

  3. princessperky says:

    I hope some folk read this and reconsider how they respond to some of these popular tactics…

    My personal hated is the ‘urgent’ or ‘last notice’..especially nerve wracking back in the day when I had to snail mail payments, what if a check got lost in the mail? all that worry for an ad, ugh.

  4. Amy F. says:

    I agree–these techniques don’t work on me, either. I particularly dislike gifts with purchase, because they’re always crappy.

  5. disneysteve says:

    Great post. I particularly hate all the tv commercials that portray men/fathers/husands as totally incompetent and unable to handle even the simplest of household tasks or child care duties. Surely I’m not the only man who changed diapers, bathed my child, does laundry or knows how to operate the vacuum cleaner. If the only way a company can sell its product is by insulting me, I’ll take my business elsewhere.

  6. Traciatim says:

    How about always having to explain every statement they make with far more fine print than for a credit card contract.

    Is it just me, or does everyone else view a * on any ad or statement as meaning “The statement we just made is a lie.”

  7. fathersez says:

    Oh, yes, an article after my own heart.

    The advertising industry operates with a single minded focus, ..get us to open our wallets and spend….useful or not, it does not matter at all.

    I like the term coined by Punny Money…Advertising Terrorism. Seems so apt, does’t it.

  8. Debbie M says:

    Traciatim: not just you. Or sometimes I interpret an asterisk as meaning: “by which we mean the exact opposite of what you’d expect” or “with the following popular exceptions.”

    The worst is when there are asterisks and superscripts that are never explained anywhere on any of the pages.

  9. Hilary says:

    I agree with Jason (#2). Everyone in the world seems to feel personally exempt from advertizing, and yet it obviously works, or else these companies would not be doing it. Just because the advertizing insults you personally does not meant that it does not work generally.

    A general rule of thumb in advertizing is that for every dollar you spend, you are wasting fifty cents of it. It’s just figuring out which 50% you should cut that is difficult. So they know that they are being ignored by 50% of their target audience, but that still fiscally makes sense.

    I think it is funny that so many people feel unaffected by advertizing. Whether or not you believe it, your entire consumer life is shaped by these companies. It might not be in the direct advertizing techniques you described, but rather the more subtle ones (like creating an image) that you’ve failed to mention, probably because like most people, you are persuaded by them.

  10. Jimbol says:

    To me, all adds are irritating in one sense or another. Generally they prey on or create some kind of insecurity that only product A purportedly can fix. However, them MOST vile and irritating adds, generally happen around Christmas. They are the ones hawking superexpensive products like new cars or extremely expensive jewlery. “What’s the matter Mr. Consumer isn’t your wife or girlfriend (or both) worth this new Mercedes? Conveniently priced at just $60,000 to show her how much you love her.” “Or how about this diamond necklace for just $6,000?” GIVE ME A BREAK. Are these idiots for real?

  11. Julie says:

    Eden hit the nail on the head about television advertising. Has anyone seen the GE Profile commercials with the snobby director and his family fixing dinner. I think the ad is very pretensious and seems to convey the idea that only snobby ultra-rich people can afford GE Profile products. Talk about specific demographic.

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  15. Jim says:

    Ummmm….it’s “…decreasing the likelihood I will buy their product” NOT “…decreasing the likelihood I will by their product”. Although I agree with you, your dumb ass mistake made me laugh and reduced the impact of your comments. Sad. But American!!!

  16. Jamie says:

    I find it amazing that there are so many articles on the net about “how advertisers insult men” (or women) but this is the only one I found that touches on how advertisers insult EVERYBODY. Yes, the man=boorish oaf who can’t perform simple tasks is annoying, as is the “women will take off their clothes if you wear our crappy drugstore cologne” “our yogurt is essential for ‘regularity'” and “your husband/boyfriend doesn’t love you unless he buys you our diamond”. I remember when I was a kid and cereal/toy commercials came with the heavy implication that their product was “not for grown-ups” or “Grown-ups don’t get it.” Like they forget who is actually BUYING these things. It never ends!!!!

    These days I don’t watch tv at all unless I can fast-forward through commercials. I’m tired of having my intelligence insulted every 10 minutes.

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