I’ve Got Friends in Television Places

When watching television commercials, most people are able to tune out the strangers who pervade their screens and disrupt their favorite television shows. However, the commercials that stick in consumer’s minds are the ones in which a familiar face is talking to them. It is much more common for people to listen to advice that comes from a friend rather than stranger, or even proclaimed “expert.” People feel that their friends understand their preferences better than any talking on television and are more accepting of advice from a friend.

The most successful commercials make use of an “advertising character” whose appearance and personality is tailored to appeal to the target consumer audience, and this same character becomes the star of the company’s commercials. These charismatic characters soon become a more than just a familiar face –they turn into friend-like figures that viewers can relate to and are interested in listening to.

The Old Spice Man and his numerous appearances in Old Spice commercials

This advertising character, referred to as the “Old Spice Man” was popular among audiences. The Old Spice Man’s speech and witty banter manipulated viewers into thinking he was speaking to, and giving advice, only to an individual viewer.

is one of the best examples of a popular advertising character. After his debut in a Superbowl commercial in 2010, viewers were infatuated with the Old Spice Man and were enthralled with each new commercial displaying him in a new exotic location and listening to his over the top banter.

Other examples of advertising characters include Flo from the Progressive insurance commercials, Tony the Tiger, the Geico gecko, and Burger King’s “The King.” Each of these characters has a distinct persona and keeps audiences interested in their latest pursuits.

Chuck Klosterman claims in his article, “It Will Shock You How Much It Never Happened,” that the appearance of a product’s packaging is important because people feel like they are buying the brand itself. Creating advertising characters works in the same way. When people purchase Old Spice, they are taking part in the adventure embarked by the Old Spice Man. Parents purchase Frosted Flakes for their children because of Tony the Tiger’s message about a complete nutritious breakfast, and children eat Frosted Flakes because Tony is fearless.

Just as Frederick Kaufman explains in his article that cooking shows appeal to the innate human sexual and digestive appetites, advertising characters appeal to human’s innate social needs. Characters used repetitively in advertising provide the same entertainment, companionship, and even trust as a friend. Addressing people’s social desires in commercials can be just as profitable to advertisers as targeting other innate. People want to surround themselves with those who are loving, trustworthy, understanding, and entertaining, and advertising characters manipulate audiences to believe that they focus on each individual viewer and provide them with those feelings.

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