A comment on the power of advertising

Elizabeth Ridlington
Jul 23 · 2 min read

We’re surrounded by advertising. Every day, we see billboards, TV ads, advertisements in magazines and corporate sponsors at all sorts of events. Much of the time we don’t notice these ads, much less think about how they shape our desires and encourage us to want things we otherwise wouldn’t want.

Credit: U.S. government work. U.S. EPA via Flickr.

A recent ad stuck out, though, and made marketing’s effect on my desires apparent. One of the underwriters on an NPR station in my area is Hint Water, which has the tagline “mouthwatering water.” Why do I need water that is mouthwatering? When I’m thirsty, my body conveniently alerts me, and I can get water for pennies per gallon by turning on the faucet at the sink. If clean, cold water doesn’t appeal to me, then I probably don’t need water. But now that I’ve heard the Hint Water tagline a dozen times, I’ve started wondering if I should buy a bottle for some variety.

Hint’s tagline reminds me of a quote from John Kenneth Galbraith’s 1958 book The Affluent Society. He comments on the power of advertising, writing “The fact that wants can be synthesized by advertising, catalyzed by salesmanship, and shaped by the discreet manipulations of the persuaders shows that they are not very urgent. A man who is hungry need never be told of his need for food.” Next time I walk past the Hint bottles in the grocery store, I’ll remind myself that a woman who is thirsty need never be told of her need for water.


The Public Interest Network

The Public Interest Network runs organizations committed to our vision of a better world, a set of core values, and a strategic approach to getting things done. https://publicinterestnetwork.org/

Elizabeth Ridlington

Written by

Senior policy analyst with Frontier Group. Focused on fracking, climate, health care costs, biking.

The Public Interest Network

The Public Interest Network runs organizations committed to our vision of a better world, a set of core values, and a strategic approach to getting things done. https://publicinterestnetwork.org/

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