Our dreams are deeply affected by advertising.

Nowadays, ads are present
in our daily life even if we decide to ignore them in most of the cases, however,
their influence is much more relevant than we might think. Ads have shaped our
dreams – our aspirations, life roles and expectations – since long time ago,
picturing worlds that only exist in an ideal reality and in our imagination. Apple,
Lucky Strike or Coca-Cola reflect a world we dream about. Perhaps this statement
could lead to the assumption that advertising is just a type of manipulation. We
tend to think that we as rational thinkers can elude the influence of advertising, but
this influence is much more subtle. Consumerism presents, through advertising, a
utopic world which only exists in our dreams.

Advertising doesn´t manipulate us. Ads are just an ideal reflection of what we desire. We all
want to be different, Apple is just stating that its products will make you different.

Therefore, we tend to associate advertising with manipulation or coercion.
But, in fact, what experts say is that advertising is based on persuasion. Ads
persuade us, they don´t manipulate us because they know that at the end we will
realize if they are trying to play with us. Advertising knows that our dreams are
made of wishes and expectations, and they just express it, and we as consumers
decide whether we want that product or no.
Persuasion is a symbolic process in which communicators try to convince othe

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people

to

change their attitudes or behaviours regarding an issue through the transmission of a
message in an atmosphere of free choice.
Perloff, R. M. (2010).

Consequently, persuasions is quite different from manipulation (Perloff,
2010). We can refuse the message, it is our choice. It is clear that ads influence us.
But manipulation or coercion imply a public acceptation of the message because of
fear – but we reject it personally –, whereas persuasion implies that we accept the
message, it convinces us in an individual way. Petty and Cacioppo pointed the
persuasive effect of advertising and how persuasion depends on connecting with
consumers´ identity.
They established the most convincing theory about how we deal with a
persuasive message, in this case advertising (Cacioppo and al., 1983). Elaboration
likelihood model was proposed in 1986. It establishes two different routes to
process a persuasive message. Both of these routes depend on two determinants:
-

Motivation: Our interest in the topic or message, our interest and

-

implication.
Ability: The level of distraction, the capacity of critical evaluation in a
particular context. It implies cognitive resources – time pressure- and
the knowledge required to understand the message.

These determinants affect the elaborated continuum. This term refers to our
capacity to think about the relevant arguments adopted by the message. And the
grade of elaborated continuum will mark which route we use to decode the
persuasive message. These routes are:
-

Central Route: High levels of motivation and ability, therefore high grade
of elaborated continuum. We conduct

an exhaustive and critical

evaluation of the message. A rational process where we decide if the
message persuade us or not based on the veracity of the arguments or
-

their relevance.
Peripheral Route:

Low levels of motivation and ability, therefore low

grade of elaborated continuum. We decide based on peripheral clues, not
in arguments. Arguments are information pieces which provide some
positive evidence about the message. Peripheral clues are present in the
persuasive context, and they can make us be influenced by the message
without a rational thinking or a critical evaluation of the message. The
most relevant peripheral clues identified by communication experts are:
o Source: Who

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o

Therefore,

Is the source attractive?
Credibility: Knowledge and confidence. More credibility,

more chance to modify the attitude.
Characteristics of the message: Fear appeals, other appeals.

this

theory

establishes

different

mechanisms

adopted

by

advertising. In the example above, the Ferrari is the car of our dreams and
advertising just need to determine the audience who is going to receive the
message. If we love cars, the ad will insist on the price, awards and the outputs of
the car. It will persuade all motor fanatics establishing a dreamt world where we
can have that car. If we don´t care much about cars, the ad will insist on peripheral
clues such as the sexy girls – advertising doesn´t really care about sexism – or the
social prestige associated with the brand. In both cases the publicists know that
they can reach our dreams through both of these routes.
Consequently, advertising conveys a particular intention: perpetuating the
consumer society. Dreams are the perfect asset to reach this goal. Advertising, with
its fancy vocabulary and its re-elaboration of reality, is making us dream about a
better way of life. Ads literally transport us to another reality, where these dreams
are possible. Green and Brock (2000) talked about the concept of narrative
transportation. Persuasive and narrative messages elaborate a parallel reality, a
fictional world. The narrations transport us to these worlds through a symbolic
journey (Igartua, 2011). We think in our heads about this world, we get excited and
focus on the message. Advertising adopts this mechanism, showing worlds where
the product is the final goal. Green and Brock point that narrative transportation

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has a powerful effect because it makes us feel excited. Excitation blocks our
capacity to think critically. Because of this, advertising doesn´t need to sell the
product or show its strengths. Sometimes the central route explained by Petty and
Cacioppo can be eluded if the ad is capable of amusing us. It just needs to deploy a
story and a world that convey our wishes and desires, and our dreams are made of
all kind of illusions.

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