'This evening, my 4-year old daughter came downstairs for some ice cream. When the commercial for the Little Mermaid DVD came on, she said, "We don't need to see that commercial. Don't they know we already bought that movie?"A simple view of the purpose of advertising is that it is designed to persuade you to buy a particular product. If you have already bought the movie, then there is no further effect possible, and therefore no purpose in showing you the commercial.
And she was right.'
But advertising can have further effects. It can remind you why you bought the product, and give you added confirmation that you made the right decision. It can make you feel good about having bought the product - perhaps before the mass audience discovered it. It can prompt you to think of friends and family that might appreciate the product, perhaps as a Christmas gift, or perhaps just as a personal recommendation. It can prepare you to buy another future product - perhaps the movie sequel. So advertising to the converted isn't necessarily wasted - we just need to find different ways of measuring the effects.
In the past, advertisers have had little choice - advertisements were broadcast to a large and undifferentiated audience. With modern technology it starts to be possible to target advertising very precisely, so that for example advertisements are never screened to people who have already bought a given product. This kind of thing can make advertising more efficient at achieving a narrowly defined effect.
But this means that the broader effects of advertising to the converted are lost. Without subsequent reinforcement from further advertising plus word-of-mouth, a larger proportion of purchasers may come to regret their purchase, and even to distrust future advertisements. Narrow efficiency is gained, but at the cost of a broader and deeper effectiveness.
So we sometimes need to be suspicious of technologies that appear to deliver some effects more efficiently. Are they the right effects? Are there some other beneficial effects we might be losing? What is the real purpose of change?
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