I don’t watch too much TV but when I do, I see a lot of terrible commercials. They range from sophomoric to earnest to delusional. Occasionally you’ll see a clever ad but almost never do you see one that’s actually interesting.
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Almostnever — but notnevernever.
Today’s podcast is aboutaseriesofinterestingadswhich sell Prudential financial products and feature as their pitchman the Harvard psychology professorDan Gilbert. A few questions are in order:
Are the ads manipulative? Sure, but not grotesquely so (and they are TV ads, after all).
Do they try to frighten people into buying financial products that they might not need? Perhaps, but in the most gentle way imaginable.
Are they tiny behavioralist masterpieces that draw on academic research and data visualization to make points that are almost never made in public discourse (much less on TV)? Indeed they are — at least to my eye.
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In the podcast, you’ll hear extensively from Gilbert — as well as the ad man who approached him (Ray Del SavioatDroga5) and the Prudential executive who helped make it work (chief brand officerColin McConnell).
I never thought we’d make an episode of Freakonomics Radio extolling the virtues of a series of TV ads for a financial-services firm. But I hope you’ll agree this was worth talking about — and I’m all in favor of raising the level of TV ads.