The Stockholm syndrome of advertising | Jacob Östberg | TEDxStockholm

The Stockholm syndrome of advertising | Jacob Östberg | TEDxStockholm



so if you walk out into a busy city center or a shopping mall on any given Saturday especially after payday you will see hordes of people milling about seemingly searching for something of great importance yeah of course you might think they're searching for something to buy but are there really perhaps they're not so much searching for something to buy but rather for themselves or at least a slightly better version of themselves because marketers and advertisers are really really good at giving us the impression that we have somehow lost ourselves that we are somehow incomplete and that their market offerings can provide us with the cultural resource resources necessary to rediscover or complete our real true selves most of us don't spend a lot of time actively thinking about and scrutinizing advertising and commercial messages we simply don't have time to do it a person living in an industrial area such as Stockholm is bombarded with thousands of commercial messages every day we're bombarded with such messages from we we get up in the morning we see them on social media in the newspapers on the radio on the TV and then on the subways going to work and then just goes on and on and on until we switch our phones off at night so there is no doubt plenty of such commercial messages around but do they have an impact when most people are asked about advertising they say two things first this date that they themselves are not that influenced by advertising or at least that they're only influenced by it when they choose to let themselves be influenced second they was concerned that others are overly influenced that others lack the willpower and intellectual prowess necessary to fend off these attractive messages especially children and others with less developed mental capacities such as their partners their friend they're colleagues well just about anyone else except for themselves so yeah funny how that happens so is this true one might then ask are we really not that affected by advertising well of course we are companies wouldn't spend billions and billions of dollars of on advertising if it didn't have any effect on their market performance but companies don't always know in what ways their advertising is effective an old saying in the advertising world is that half of all the money spent on advertising is wasted the problem is we just don't know what half but we also know that we are affected by advertising even though we might think that we are not as consumers and individuals we like to nurture the fantasy that were strong individuals whose tastes for various goods and services emanate from within from who we are and that were not that affected by others informing our preferences but advertising doesn't only work in the sense that it makes us buy certain products and services advertising also provides us with idealized images of how we should live our lives how should actualize ourselves as human beings advertising is thus an existential issue if we want to give the consumer the companies the benefit of the doubt we can say that this is an unintended side effect of advertising in this latter role the existential issue is seldom talked about quite simply because it is seldom acknowledged because we rarely take advertising seriously and old yeah so kind of a truism in advertising is that companies want happy customers and I'm not gonna argue against this it's probably good if a person who has spent their money on a company's product offering feel that they have gotten their money's worth and haven't been cheated in the process at least not too much but on an aggregate level companies do not want us as consumers to be happy in the sense that we are satisfied with our lives just the way they are on the contrary consumers want to companies want us as consumers to be miserable and feel that our lives could and should be so much better companies want us to feel incomplete they thrive on us feeling incomplete and then nice as they are the companies that they're offering to help us reach our true potential as human beings so I'm going to give an example now of this unintended side effect of advertising that I'm talking about so large Swedish retailer IKEA have recently run a series of ads trying to get us to buy more beds how are they doing this well on a surface level it might appear that they're saying that you know IKEA as bed or beds are really comfortable and of high quality so money invested in a bed from Ikea will assure you many years of comfortable sleep and that's not too bad is it well if we scratch the surface a little bit another image appears in which IKEA is suggesting that we are somehow incomplete there is an underlying message here telling us that we are not sleeping as well as we potentially could IKEA is asking us if we are perhaps sometimes experiencing fatigue during a long day perhaps we're not always jumping out of the bed in the morning feeling all perky and ready to meet the day most of us don't have a very hard time connecting to this type of a message doing being tired in the morning and feeling that one could have gotten a better night's sleep that isn't very unique but what IKEA does is that they suggest that this is something that we as consumers have chosen we have chosen this mystery by not letting IKEA sell us a bed that with rid us of these problems if we would only let this benevolent company help us sleep through the night we would be a better version ourselves we would be much nicer and this our choice and it seems like a lot of us are choosing misery so this is a recurrent pattern we are told over and over again that we are not living up to our true potential and then we are sold the solution so advertising collectively thus breaks us down and kind of compare this to how it works in the military when young cadets join the military and are forced into a boot camp where they are being broken down mentally only to be built up again but totally according to the principles of the military we as consumers are being broken down to some degree and then we are sold the solutions but really being broken down is that an adequate description of what is going on let us return now to that introductory image of busy shopping areas and hordes of people milling about searching for something something to buy or themselves if I can have it my way these hordes of people do they really live up to the image of a broken collective no not really rather the collective feeling during these shopping outings is one of excitement of fun and even of gratitude but this is entirely consistent with my argument if I'm gonna put it in slightly polarized terms one could say that once we as consumers have been sufficiently broken down we are just happy and thankful for the companies providing us with the cultural resources necessary to build ourselves up again so I do think it's important to point out that advertising in the commercial world is not necessarily about providing glitz and glamour it is about getting us to experience misery yeah I know I might appear like yeah left-wing teenage activist who fell asleep in the 70s and just woke up you know beware of the market am I not making too much out of this isn't this borderline conspiracy theory well this belittlement of advertising's unintended side effects is exactly what i'm talking about the commercial world get away with this by being banal enough not to be taken seriously cuz really serious cultural critics would spend their days discussing serious things high cultures that it's art literature drama and so forth they wouldn't get their hands dirty with something as silly as advertising advertising's effect on our current society is therefore largely under analyzed and perhaps I'm even an example of this myself I'm Sweden's first professor of advertising in PR so it doesn't really seem like the university system have been lining up to direct systematic attention to these kinds of issues so being here at TEDx Stockholm I want to compare this to a Stockholm Syndrome situation the Stockholm Syndrome describes a situation in which those held hostage during a hostage crisis start siding with the captors rather than with those trying to rescue them so in the image I'm painting here I'm suggesting that the consumers are being held hostage by the market forces but rather than being angry at the market for breaking them down and making them feel worthless the consumers are praising the market for providing them the cultural resources necessary for building themselves up again and people like me we like to see ourselves as rescuers and who like to point to this dynamic between the market and culture and individual consumers and we'd like to suggest that we're all involved in a sinister game well we met with the anger and accused of being patronizing bullies so what I'm describing here is a paradigm shift in which the commercial world is increasingly shaping culture and when I want to give an example here dealing with brands because I think that our society's love for brands is one of the surest science of this paradigm shift and more specifically I want to talk about brand tattoos because today there are plenty of people out there with Pepsi or rebook Nike Adidas harley-davidson Apple Honda Volvo Lego or jagemeister tattoos just to name a few so why would someone choose to get a brand tattoo before we can even start trying to explain that we need to know a little bit more about what goes into choosing a tattoo so research about tattooing suggests that someone gets a tattoo typically because it helps them tell a story about who they are or who they want to become and the motive is chosen because it helps them tell that story and when it comes to traditional tattoos there are a number of traditional categories of motives that are used for example religious motives folkloristic motives motives from popular culture or symbols from foreign cultures Thurman somehow looks up to you and many times the reasonings seem to go something like this this is here is the Chinese symbol for balance and harmony and that is exactly what I aspire for in life yes this is a somewhat simplified but reasonably accurate description of what goes into choosing it – – so what about brand tattoos them well many times they're brushed off as jokes or as irony which is indicative of our society's willingness to take this serious do not take these issues seriously because I would suggest that someone who chooses to tattoo a brand symbol onto their body doesn't do that to be funny or to be ironic but because that symbol accurately helps them tell a story about who they are or who they wanted to come so brands thereby have become symbols that are on par with other symbols floating around in our society so someone who tattoos and Nike swoosh on their ankle doesn't do that to be funny or ironic but because they feel that Nikes just do it ethos kind of encapsulates their life philosophy just like a yin-yang symbol might work for someone else and how long someone who tattoos a Jagermeister logo on their forearm doesn't do that to be a prankster or because they're a fool duped by the market but because that tattoo accurately helps them tell a story of how they're a reckless party animal to the relevant others someone from a different background might have tattooed an image of Greek god Dionysus in order to convey the same meaning so what I'm describing here is that brands have become symbols that consumers use to make sense of our contemporary world so we're seeing that the commercial world is at simultaneously providing us with identity templates for how we should live our lives and selling us the props necessary to orchestrate a suitable identity and this is a remarkable change of our cultural landscape there have always been identity templates telling us how we should live our lives identity templates of what is an ideal man woman husband wife child parent family workplace colleague and so forth where do these ideals come from well traditionally they've come from the state the church schools and of course the high cultures and it's not that these traditional identity templates and authorities are necessarily free or more forgiving than the ones provided by the market but they are systematically analyzed by cultural critics in fact it's the essence of a free intellectual society that these important cultural authorities are systematically scrutinized and debated but what is shocking however is that so little attention is directed at the ideological content of the totality of commercial messages that we are showered with on an everyday basis so I would love for the cultural critics of our society to take consumer society seriously and I would love for the editors of our newspapers and magazine to leave room for a meticulous analysis of commercial messages and casue consumer goods I would love for more of us to connect the dots between what we experience as our own private individual desire to buy stuff and the billions of dollars spent on advertising and the thousands of commercial messages that we are bombarded with on an everyday basis I would love for more of us to be just somewhat skeptical when we seemingly shocked burst into things like wow it's amazing I've been looking for exactly this type of jacket for a really long time I would love for more of us then at least spend a little time thinking about why we started craving that jacket in the first place and while I'm not necessarily advocating a radical shift in how we organize our current market society I would like to cry out the call to arms we need to take advertising and brands role in society seriously and we need to start looking at the ideological content of advertising rather than to merely view it as some glamorized type of product information and we need to arm ourselves with a reasonable set of tools in order to understand the kind of games that we are involved in thank you you [Applause]

14 thoughts on “The Stockholm syndrome of advertising | Jacob Östberg | TEDxStockholm”

  1. I predicted pretty much every last thing that would happen because of the internet way back around 2000. I was ridiculed for every word I said and my accuracy, now that I look back was stunning. To me this was obvious. The issue now is not whether or not people see the damage it has done and actually care, or whether or not they simply accept it and I assure you they will and have. I think most people would rather participate in something like that that they know is destructive to them, rather than suffer the withdrawal from no devices and toys. Steve Jobs turned the species into a bunch of 3 year olds with his invention and they whine and throw temper tantrums when they lose their toys. The concept of being truly human is in the past now.

  2. He said he would love theorist to address advertising in a more serious way, it has be done already and it's the work of Baudrillard he said we live in world of simulation where signs of reality has taken the place of reality once we passed from productive society to consumer society we are left with signs, signs generated out of advertising, advertising being a audiovisual machinery acting as the middleman between culture and economics it has achieved a real revolution in society that is the commodification of our lives and humanización of commodity so people don't seek and buy objects they look for their identities nothing more no less they are being broken down havimg become incomplete as a person here's how consumerism step in to save the day, advertising make the commodity so diverse, target driven, it no only broken down the products in a myriad of elements premised on in advance desires, styles, minimal differences in short models sport car, utilitarian car, luxury car, classic car etc the thing is in abstracting the thing that way it also break people down into a myriad of identities when people can customize and update themselves (commodified themselves) so advertising and the culture machine it uses for its purpose precede man. because this system of sign entails the possibility of anyone choosing to be whatever they want to be because as I said before it's about a code controlling in advance the whole of desires and dreams and for that matter psycho, libido energies so it's not sufficient to claim to be anti ad anti whatever because the act of saying it or commenting it in FB box it's not revolutionary nor anarchist anymore but it consist of the very fuel making this system to get going, the system Co opt every counter culture act so as to rendered useless as a revolutionary way out it thrives on people participating everytime you stand against some or held a protest at McDonald's the system reproduces itself

  3. Jacob Östberg is on point in describing the consumer market today but leaves out that almost all advertising is done using TV series, movies and games by selling a desirable personalty or superior representation of the watcher with an image, reaching a broad spectrum of target markets thru different genres. Or in the case of popular TV shows and games, each spectrum of the prominent desirable representation of a character will be represented in a sanitized setting with unrealistic expectations of individuals in society being portrayed leaving the watchers feeling insignificant in their present state of being.

    I agree that people feel incomplete because it feels imposable for them to make an impact in there world, so to feel better they pretend and fashion themselves as someone who (they are led to believe) can make a better impact in the world. This way they feel elevated in the social hierarchy and don't feel unworthy of attention, love or to be desired.

    They also look for these characters and settings in finding a mate leading to mass delusion of the world in which they live because the world they observe has being alternated in production and then portrayed by and through the media to the watchers. In my opinion, this method can be called soft brain washing using human nature as a weapon against individuals in mass manipulation by mass media to consume in order to portray the marketed and promoted way of life.

    In this method of advertising the loved role models or superior representation of the individual watching also express views that the impersonator will adopt unknowingly in order to fulfill there representation of there desired character or most lightly, a superior representation of themselves.

    This is the definition of brain washing. Changing the thoughts and beliefs of another person without the person being aware.

    So the media is a strong force and Jacob Östberg is right in saying that people should have some tools to deal with the negative effect it can have.

  4. the stockholm syndrome analogy is on point!
    really enjoyed this talk, I have been thinking about this topic for a while now. it is nice to see it being addressed on TED

  5. This is one reasons why people like icons and celebrity's will never be satisfied with life and will always feel like they are missing a part of themselves or wind up crashing and "burning" so to speak… "Beyond the lights" is a perfect visual example… Its whats inside that matters nothing more nothing less and if you can't be content with who you are maybe your looking at the picture of success and happiness in and of life in an unappealing way…

  6. And my mom wonders why I'm not like other kids my age wanting name brand clothes… I don't want to be defined with labels…nor do I want to be categorized in any other way..I just want to see myself for who I am and that is a capable and intelligent INDIVIDUAL

  7. Marketing strategies are based on the premise That Man is a creature in need and will never find ultimate satisfaction. We need to be deceived . Without Realizing it , we are part of a show, of the society of spectacle.

  8. This is absolutely brilliant. Psychologists are used to manipulate the publiic by pressing just the right emotional and intellectual buttons. They want to at once shame us and then provide the solution. One example. McDonalds is brilliant at this. The poster of the cheesy big mac staring you in the face says, "What you want when you order a salad," is just quippy, right? No. It is meant to make you feel deprived. Anyone who has tried hard to deny themselves unhealthy, greasy foods knows that dieting is hard because a person feels deprived. Deprivation is a strong psychological emotion. And the ad works. That is just one example. The skinny happy families scarfing down burgers is the in-your-face, idea that if you feed your families fast food and get fat you are at fault, see many skinny happy people eat fast food and are fine, you are the exception, using shame to make you miserable, making you feel helpless, and then providing the solution. Have a big mac. Don't be deprived. Millions have been served and they love it!

  9. My friend who is  a stud, refused to wear designer athletic wear. He said why pay for an overpriced shirt so I can advertise for the company?

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