Capturing the final frontier Adcreep and beyond

We have allowed marketers to blast our senses with manufactured smells and sounds to affect our mood. We have been too relaxed about ad-creep, which has allowed us to be assaulted by adverts in schools, airport lounges, doctors surgeries, offices, cinemas, hospitals, gas stations, elevators, convenience stores, on trains, on roundabouts, on park benches, on escalator rails, on the internet, on fruit, on ATMs, on garbage cans, on beach sand and on toilet walls. We are compelled to watch and listen to tamper-proof TV sets in airports, buses and other mass transit. TV programmes in an innocent guise are packed with embedded advertising. No place is sacred. The urban environment is a canvas for adverts. Public space has become advertising space.9 Will we respond at last to the assault on the final frontier, the inner workings of our minds?

Neuromarketing charts the neural activity that leads to our selections in the supermarket and the voting booth. It studies the subliminal responses of the brain to adverts, brands and other messages littering the cultural landscape. The aim is to transform otherwise rational people into consumption-driven robots, so achieving the complete corporate manipulation of people. The means are to trigger neural activity in various ways so as to modify our behaviour. Atlanta's Brighthouse Institute for Thought Sciences claims it is closing the gap between business and science - with the goal of getting us to behave the way corporations want. 'What it really does is give unprecedented insight into the consumer mind. And it will actually result in higher product sales or in brand preference or in getting customers to behave the way they want them to behave,' notes company executive Adam Koval.10 'Let that quote linger in your mind,' as the organization Commercial Alert comments acerbically.11

Those involved in neuromarketing try to make it sound like nothing special. They simply want, they claim, 'to help consumers understand their true desires'. Alternatively their research 'could be used to shut off a buy button as well as turn it on'. Paying for a technology that makes people buy less? Sounds very unlikely.12

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