Does Advertising Really Make You Spend More?

A standard claim is that people who watch less TV spend less on stuff they don’t need. I made the claim myself. But I started to wonder if that’s really true. How influenced are we by advertising? Do we spend more because of advertising or do we buy things we otherwise wouldn’t buy? Are consumers becoming immune to advertising?

Advertising and Children

It’s clear that advertising works on children. When they see toys or junk food or any other product advertised on TV, it creates a desire for that item. That’s why advertising has been banned during children’s TV blocks. I’m not sure if the ban was effective, though, because marketers simply turned to branding products in popular characters names. I’m curious how effective the Dora the Explorer vegetables were. Did a character encourage children to suddenly like carrots?

Because we know children are impressionable, that alone may not be enough to influence spending, though. Parents who say no to requests and provide good money lessons may raise children who are less likely to fall for advertising as adults.

Advertising and Teens

I would argue that teens are less influenced by direct advertising. Teens today have seen so many ads that they’ve learned to tune them out. Instead they look to the coolest kids and celebrities to determine the products they should own in order to be popular. In this sense, advertising could have some impact when celebrity endorsers appeal to the teen demographic. Again, though, parents can assert some influence over the purchases of their teens by insisting that teens buy things with their own money in order to learn their true worth.

Advertising and Adults

Adults are probably the least likely to be influenced by advertising because of the sheer ad saturation during their lives, but advertisers try anyway. I wonder if advertising is more or less effective on certain kinds of people.

Impulse Purchasers

I can imagine that people prone to impulse purchases are heavily influenced by advertising. They are sort of people who will order a pizza for dinner after seeing it advertised, or buy the must-have shoes featured in the fashion magazines.


Trendsetters may be less influenced by traditional advertising than by buzz marketing. They look to find the latest, hottest, newest items for purchase. For example, I had a friend who was one of the first to buy TIVO and a DVD player. He overpaid for both, but he liked to own the latest new toy.


The reason advertisers target children is because they know children are very good at convincing parents to buy. Anyone facing a toy store tantrum may be willing to buy the product to get the kid to stop screaming. They also want to make sure their children feel loved, and choose to express it through consumerism. However, as the economy slides, more parents are saying no. Will that trend continue after the economy improves?

People with Health Concerns

Drug advertisements were initially very effective in convincing people to ask their doctors for a name brand medication, even if it’s not the best one for them. There’s some evidence that their effectiveness is declining, though. I did this once, but switched after only three months because of side effects. After that experience, I’ve decided to trust my doctor about the best medication for me.

Careful Shoppers

I would guess that careful shoppers, frugal people, and late adopters are the least influenced by advertising. I count myself in this category. I will soon be in the market for a car, but my base price and desired features haven’t been strongly influenced by advertising. Neither has my choice in makes. Mercury can tell me to put them on my list all they want, but I’m not going to because 1. I have 30 years of negative perceptions about them, and 2. I hate the music and the clothes in the commercials. You could say that ad had a negative effect.

The Types of Advertising that Influence Me

This isn’t to say I’m not completely uninfluenced by advertising.


If I see a food ad, it might prompt me to make something similar for dinner one night, but I’ll cook it from scratch rather than buy that product.


I’m also heavily influenced by ads for websites. After seeing a site advertised, I’ll usually go check out and see if it’s something that could be useful to me.

Sunday Inserts:

When I’m looking for a product and have already chosen the one I want to buy, then the Sunday newspaper inserts are very effective in convincing me to visit a specific store. Usually it’s because they have a sale on the item, but I might also be tempted to pick up a few other sale items while I’m there.


While I don’t usually buy a food brand just because of a coupon, I’m very willing to try a new shamphoo or toothpaste if I have a good coupon for it.

The New Era of Advertising

A recent study by Neilsen Buzzmetrics says that consumers are increasingly placing more trust in consumer recommendations, websites, and blogs, than they are in the traditional advertising mediums. That could indicate that TV advertisements are continuing to decline in effectiveness as consumers become more savvy. Marketers are increasingly moving online to influence people at the purchase point. We may also see a return to the days when a TV show was sponsored by a single advertiser, except the ads will be embedded or product-placed rather than overt.

Are you influenced by advertising? What have you bought that you wouldn’t have without seeing an ad? How do you see advertising evolving? Tell me in the comments?

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