Total Persuasion Awareness

Dave Hoffman

Dave Hoffman is the Murray Shusterman Professor of Transactional and Business Law at Temple Law School. He specializes in law and psychology, contracts, and quantitative analysis of civil procedure. He currently teaches contracts, civil procedure, corporations, and law and economics.

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6 Responses

  1. Frank says:

    Great post. Check out Walter Kirn’s novel The Unbinding, which is about a Google-like company of the future that knows everything about everyone…the marketing opportunities are amazing.

    On the other hand, our guest blogger Eric Goldman would likely say that the only way out of saturation marketing is to have targeted, personalized marketing from companies with a good idea of what you might buy.

  2. my initial reaction to the Times article: “who cares” – if the outdoor ads don’t work, they are gone, if they work, then maybe they aren’t nearly all bad…unlike government, business can’t force us to comply with their requests if we don’t do so voluntarily (see governments’ lengthy efforts to stop people from smoking.)

    most recently, in Maryland we were inundated with much such ubiquitous advertising – those that encouraged me to vote for Martin O’Malley or ben Cardin, I found “bad” but I enjoyed their counterparts so you probably don’t want me making the decision as to what’s “bad” and what’s acceptable.

    and please – “Obviously, trends that would reduce the government’s power to bargain on behalf of citizens and regulate noncommercial civic spaces ought to be resisted. (Here, I’m thinking of the move to fully protect commercial speech under the first amendment.)”

    beyond the fact that I think commercial speech should be fully protected (its carve-out has never made sense to me), I don’t think I’m alone when I admit to being wary of government bargaining on MY behalf. So far, such “bargaining” has led to reduced speech rights under McCain-Feingold, the prohibition against enjoying an after-dinner cigar in a willing restaurant (Montgomery County Maryland among other places) and soon I won’t be able to partake of a delicous trans-fat filled meal in NYC. Governments bargain on behalf of governments – specifically those who are employed as the government…most of whom are home today because they bargained themselves another federal holiday.

  3. Frank says:

    here’s a fun quote from Julian Stallabrass:

    “Homogeneous and instrumental identities are . . . constantly forged through marketing. At the same time, the system is delicate, founded as it is on the continuance of widespread affluence and the repetition of broken promises. ”

  4. Ken Arromdee says:

    unlike government, business can’t force us to comply with their requests if we don’t do so voluntarily

    I can choose not to buy products which are advertised intrusively, but I can’t choose not to not be intruded on.

    It’s the same problem as junk phone calls: the companies don’t care that making sales imposes costs on non-customers because, well, they’re non-customers already so the company has little incentive not to piss them off.

  5. “It’s the same problem as junk phone calls: the companies don’t care that making sales imposes costs on non-customers because, well, they’re non-customers already so the company has little incentive not to piss them off.”

    of course they have an incentive – the idea behind the phone calls is to make you a customer – otherwise why would they bother? Anecdotaly, my annoying junk calls peak at election time and of course it depends on who is calling as to which is most annoying. Unfortunately I can’t out of junk political calls like I can from junk commercial calls – since they are just as annoying, if not more so and a hell of a lot less educational – why do we differentiate.

    I guess my point in all of this is – if you’re talking about limits on external marketing because they are annoying or aesthetical non-pleasing or because it’s a visible sign of capitalism and at Harvard Law you learned that capitalism sucks, then it should be across the board…or not at all. I’d rather see/hear from McDonald’s than Mayor Bloomberg and Exxon instead of Al Gore.

  6. dave says:

    Thanks for these comments, all. One brief response.

    I understand MC to argue that the market clearing amount of outdoor advertising is necessarily welfare maximizing. This argument begs the point of the post, which is that the market for advertising is weird. Moreover, advertising itself isn’t a useful thing for society to want (unlike political speech, which at least has the potential to restrain political corruption). Advertising is only to be valued if it helps us make better product purchase decisions. Otherwise, it is waste. The point of the post is that we can expect that advertising increasingly to be wasteful. It misleads through emotional persuasion. The idea that consumers’ purchasing is always voluntary and rational seems seems to me to express a view of context-less consent that I do not view as empirically validated.