Marketing in the 21st Century: How We Become Mobile Ads, and Your Insecurity Sells at Good Prices

If you scroll quickly on Facebook or Instagram, you are constantly being served ads, more or less obvious. Everything the internet knows about you is used against you to sell you something, and the science behind it is terrifying.

Any teenager wants to be an influencer when she grows up. This ubiquitous term in the 2020 online translates into a person who influences, changes opinions. In 9 out of 10 cases, however, that opinion is not one about politics or moral values, it is about what to eat, what creams to apply or what phone to buy.

It doesn't even matter what personalities you follow in the online environment. They all sell something and, not infrequently, you don't even realize it. From one point of view, this is a symptom of capitalism. Each of us has the freedom to choose a product from an extreme variety, and giants invest more in psychological research and market research than in traditional marketing.

Today, you don't buy a cream anymore because it's the best or the newest, but because it's the best “for you”, and your favorite soloist praised her on Instagram. That “for you” actually comes as an exploitation of your insecurity, of the lack of trust exploited by personalized ads.

Two different laptops, in the same house, one meter away, display different ads depending on the user behind them and their online habits. Search for an acne cream on Google, and for two weeks you will see just that on all the sites you visit. Join a Facebook group of whiskey enthusiasts, and the flow of information will be loaded with “proposals” for your passion.

Personalized or sensory ads, however, are not new at all. They started 100 years ago. At the same time, the stars of the time started to be street ads, as happens with you when you walk on the street with a T-shirt whose manufacturer is ostentatiously displayed.

In the early 1920s, smoking was very popular among men. Almost everyone smoked. But women were stigmatized if they had the same vice. “There is a gold mine right in our yard,” George Washington Hill said at the time about that half of the population who, out of prejudice, did not start smoking. Hill was the president of the American Tobacco Company, the most important player in the cigarette market.

Women joined the ranks of men shortly after the American Tobacco Company hired Edward Bernays, an ambitious young man with strange ideas, as marketing director. and unusual promotion campaigns. His employment was a lottery and no one expected him to be able to influence marketing practices on his own for the next 100 years.

Bernays introduced psychology into the principles of marketing. At a time when advertisements were built around the brief description of a product, the specifications that make it different from the competition, he had a completely different view of reality. commercial. Until then, it was considered that people buy one type of cheese to the detriment of another because they use fresher milk in the production process, because it is more mature or because it is cheaper.

Edward Bernays lived 103 years and is the grandson of Sigmund Freud. Unlike Freud who theorized the mechanisms of the human brain, Bernays applied those theories widely and, implicitly, made a lot of money from it. Psychoanalysis, crowd theory, herd instinct were all exploited in Bernays' campaigns. Not for nothing, he was included in the list of the 100 most influential personalities of the 20th century of LIFE magazine.

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