The Ads That Are Part of Your Life


How much does advertising affect you? You may not think it has any real affect on your everyday life, but it's an extremely powerful tool that has a major impact on so much of what we do, say, buy, wear, or talk about. (See also: Advertising Jargon That Aims to Mislead)

I could write a book on the psychological impact of advertising on purchasing decisions, but many others have already done so, and the books are great. Not only that, but they also give you a scary insight into the manipulative forces at play in even the smallest decision — like Pepsi or Coke, Walmart or Target, or even which type of gum you'll chew. Seriously, how much does one type of minty gum differ from another? It's all about branding, and brands are now so iconic and popular that they have become part of the fabric of our lives.

Today I present five of the more recent branding campaigns (sorry Nike fans, Just Do It is awesome, but it’s been around for decades) that have become a part of popular culture. Ironically, advertising usually takes elements of something already existing in pop culture and regurgitates them, so it's easy to see why they are so readily accepted when reborn as ad campaigns.

1. The Most Interesting Man In The World (Dos Equis)

A brilliant piece of branding in a marketplace crowded by sexy bikini-clad girls and claims about coldness. The man at the center of the campaign has done it all. He's the epitome of "been there, done that." His background makes him uber-cool. He's wise. He's the man. So when he tells you what he likes to drink, well, you take notice. This is not a new concept at all. In fact, the idea is remarkably similar to Chuck Norris facts (Chuck Norris can slam a revolving door, etc). But the way they signed off the campaign has become something that has spread across the Internet and in workplaces. The line "I don't always drink beer, but when I do I prefer Dos Equis" has been turned around in hundreds of different ways, most of them really funny. Here are a few I laughed at recently:

  • "I don't always use the toilet at work, but when I do I prefer the handicapped stall."
  • "I don't always use Internet Explorer, but when I do it's to download another browser."
  • "I don't always work from home, but when I do I don't actually work."

See many more examples on Reddit.

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2. The Old Spice Guy

You know you're onto something when every Tom, Dick, or Harry in the office is parodying your advertising. I've been in meetings where the presenter started with "look at me, now the PowerPoint, now back to me..." and so on. This is in fact a very similar campaign to Dos Equis — presenting someone so cool he's beyond cool, and then aligning him with a brand. In this case, the Old Spice brand was dying. Now, it has new life, revived by a campaign that has copycats everywhere. When your mom calls you and recites the Old Spice monologue, you've hit pay dirt. And even Fabio is getting in on the action.

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3. I’m a Mac, I’m a PC

Another landmark piece of advertising from TBWA\Chiat\Day. Around water coolers, on Internet chat sites, at the gym, people were asking — “So are you a Mac or a PC?” And surprisingly, although the ads portray PCs as unhip and out of date, many people responded with the answer PC. Why? Well for a start, Apple products are extremely expensive compared to PCs, something which of course the ads don’t really go in to. Also, PCs are made by many different companies, including Sony, Toshiba, and HP. Macs are made by Apple. That’s it. So getting hold of a PC is much easier. There are way more game titles for PCs than Macs, and PCs are much easier to customize and build. Oh, and let’s not forget, the guy who plays the PC — comedian John Hodgman — is a really funny and intelligent guy. So, who are you? Personally, I’m someone who wants to be a Mac (and will one day own one), but I’ll probably always be a PC.

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4. Allstate Insurance Mayhem

I was going to put Geico on the list, but after speaking to friends and family, I discovered that Allstate’s new Mayhem campaign is way more popular with them. And one that they laugh about and parody all the time.

From the ads:

  • “I’m the key against your side door…”
  • “I’m a hot babe out jogging…”
  • “I’m a raccoon…” 

Heard from the people who love the ads:

  • “I’m the guy who plays the same song over and over and over…”
  • “I’m the girl in the coffee line that stands too close to you…”
  • “I’m the boss who tells you not to take vacation while they’re on vacation…”

The basic premise, if you haven’t see the ads, is that a man in a suit (played expertly by Dean Winters) is basically becoming the things that can wreck your car, your home, or anything else that needs insurance. In a recent ad, he becomes a raccoon in your attic, and it’s funny. Very. Plus, it’s memorable. Of course, now people are using the same premise to say that they’re anything that’s annoying in life. Right now, “I’m the kid who refuses to go to sleep even though it’s 10 p.m…” is my Mayhem.

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5. Snickers Hungry Alter Ego

Who do you become when you’re hungry? That’s the premise of the Snicker’s campaign, and it has compared hungry guys and girls to Betty White, Richard Lewis or Roseanne Barr, Gladys Knight or Liza Minnelli, and even a famous ballet dancer in Russia!

Me, I get compared to Joe Pesci all the time. "Hey Pesci, we’re eating in ten minutes, so keep it down." I just want to say, I’m only that angry when I’m waiting to go out for Indian food.

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So which recent ads (not Budweiser’s "Wasssuuuppppp?!!!") have seeped into your daily life? And how does it actually make you feel about the product it’s advertising?

Average: 2 (4 votes)
Your rating: None

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Guest's picture

The secret to avoiding being overly influenced by advertising? Cut the cord. Since I have no TV, I'd heard of exactly one of these campaigns (the Old Spice) because someone at work pulled it up on YouTube to show to me.

My life is better without this sort of garbage.

Guest's picture

Enjoying a commercial does not necessarily equal being overly influenced by them. I love all of these commercials, but I don't use a single one of the products mentioned. I respect your viewpoint, but not everyone needs, or WANTS, to do things like give up television, especially in order to not be "influenced," and it's not respectful to everyone else to call it garbage simply because you choose not to partake in it.

Guest's picture

This is fascinating and very well timed. I was just reading an article about our susceptibility to ads today in the The Boston Globe. Apparently a Yale University Psychologist and a New York ad agency are teaming up to, "explore whether susceptibility to messages, such as those used in marketing, is deeply ingrained in humans because it is embedded in our DNA - inherited from long-ago ancestors common to us and monkeys - or whether it is a strictly human weakness." Long story short they are taking racy pictures of Capuchin monkeys to see if other Capuchins respond to the idea that "Capuchin sells." It is both fascinating and ludicrous in my opinion but the link to the article is here:

Guest's picture

My favorites: Geico; The little pig (and its also annoying if you hear it but don't watch it. Another one "Does the buck stop here"

Guest's picture

"Can switching to Geico really save you 15% or more on car insurance?" *wiggle your eyebrows suavely* *ask a rhetorical question insinuating the affirmative*