Commercials are everywhere: online, on billboards, in subway stations, alongside buses, on the radio, on TV and, of course, in the movie theater. In this age of consumerism, even those who may want to resist the fusillade of advertisements are susceptible.
A study conducted by the University of Cologne, and published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, may have found a game-changer, however: popcorn.
The study, covered in the Guardian on Oct. 13, took a look at two groups of test subjects who were shown commercials for a variety of products, from shampoo and lotion to snacks and beverages. One group was munching away on popcorn; the other group sucked on sugar cubes. The group that ate popcorn seemed unaffected by the ads — that is, they didn’t recall the products.
But it’s not really the popcorn rendering advertising ineffective here; rather, it's the act of chewing. In his coverage of the study for Bloomberg Businessweek, Drake Bennett explains that “when people read, they tend to mime the act of speaking. Even if they’re not saying the words out loud, the brain simulates the corresponding muscle movements of the throat and mouth.”
Advertisers know this, which is why they rely on the art of repetition when marketing their products to you — that is why, Bennett points out, “marketers find ways to say the name of a product over and over.” But if you distract the brain, say, with the repetitive act of chewing, then it’s simply not as receptive, if at all, to the ads to which it’s exposed. Basically, you can probably walk and chew gum at the same time, but your brain can’t perform two repetitive tasks at the same time. Check and mate.
So the next time you flip through that fashion magazine, which seems like it's 80% ads and 20% articles telling you to drape your purse on the crook of your elbow or instructing you to wear royal blue with bright emerald green, make sure you’re chewing on a stick of gum. You may just end up holding your purse comfortably on your shoulder and wearing what you want instead. (No, seriously, what’s up with the way some women hold their purses lately? It’s as if they've become literal walking advertisements for the brands of bags they have, holding them up for others to see — i.e., "Do you see this bag I have? Don't you want it, too?")
We are basically bombarded with ads day in and day out, and you won’t likely be chewing for all of it, but consider killing two birds with one stone: arm yourselves against being told what you want or need by outside influencers while getting your daily recommended allowance of fruits and vegetables.
If you have children, serve them some baby carrots and celery while they watch TV — they are aggressively targeted by advertisers who will have them adding game consoles, games, iPhones, tablets and toys to their birthday and holiday wish lists.
Don’t want to be a "jerk" at the movies while enjoying some crunchy snacks? Chew on some sugar-free gum. (The Guardian article suggests having popcorn at the movies is "irritating," but who doesn't eat popcorn and other crunchy snacks at the movies? Or anywhere? As long as someone's not kicking the back of your seat or talking or messing with their phones, what's someone trying to enjoy their chocolate-covered peanut candies to you? Harrumph.)