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.
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.
Photo: U.S. government work. U.S. EPA via Flickr.
Associate Director and Senior Policy Analyst, Frontier Group
Elizabeth Ridlington is associate director and senior policy analyst with Frontier Group. She focuses primarily on global warming, toxics, health care and clean vehicles, and has written dozens of reports on these and other subjects. Elizabeth graduated with honors from Harvard with a degree in government. She joined Frontier Group in 2002. She lives in Northern California with her husband and son.