A Psychologist and an Ad Guy Walk into a Bar

Palmer McGraw and Hilary Monroe

Dan Monheit, Strategy Director at Hardhat agency, and Dr. Melissa Weinberg, Psychologist with LifePsych, used five famous advertisements from the past twenty years to illustrate the intersection of Psychology and Advertising. Given all of the research done in the field of psychology regarding behavioral economics, Monheit asks strategist to consider, “how can we use all of this information to create better ads?”

Budweiser’s “Wassup” ad that ran at the 2000 Super Bowl utilized the strategy of vernacular jack to attach the brand to a phrase. By repeating the phrase over and over again in the ad, they attached the feeling of wanting a Budweiser beer to that phrase. The popularity, and utter hilariousness, of this iconic add caused the phrase “Wassup?” to be used over one million times a day, making every utterance a subtle add.

P&G’s 2010 U.S. Olympic ad entitled “Thank you Mom” was enormously successful despite the short time frame they had to make it and the extensive sub-brands they needed to incorporate into the spot. However, by creating content that resonated with audiences on an emotional level they perfectly crafted a commercial that evoked what Monheit and Weinberg dub the memory availability bias. This bias essentially means that it is easier to recall content that is both emotional and personal, so ads should work to create advertisements as such to enhance recall.

TAC, an Australian safety initiative, created a campaign to lower car fatalities to zero. This advertisement was successful because they implemented the framing effect. This explains that they way that we interpret information has little to do with the information itself. It is how the information is communicated that makes us engage with it.

In 2006, Apple created a campaign that was enormously successful because they utilized the peak end rule. This strategy explains that judgement of experience is not how we felt during it, but how we felt at the end of it. Monheit and Weinber suggest that strategists pick 2 or 3 key points and place the most important at the end because that is what people will remember.

Finally, in 2007 Unicef created a campaign which drew on the licensing effect. This theory explains how we seek balance with our decisions. It is why once we accomplish something challenging, such as finishing a huge school assignment or meeting another personal goal, we give ourselves permission to indulge or, in other words, “treat yourself!”