On the occasion of New Business Age’s Best Print Advertising Awards 2073/74, a talk programme was held on the theme, “Novelty, Emotion, Women and Sex (NEWS) in Advertising: A Darwinian Perspective.” The panelists included Sandesh Dhakal, an expert on Psychology and Lecturer at Tribhuwan University and advertisement and marketing expert Abhaya Pandey. Here is a summary of the conversation.
In 1859, Charles Darwin wrote a book titled, “On the Origin of Species.” The book talks about the famous Theory of Evolution which states that only the strong species will survive and evolve in nature. This theory is still accepted to this day and age in the 21st century.
But can Darwin’s Theory be applied to the subject of commercial advertisement? TU Lecturer and Psychology expert, Sandesh Dhakal and advertisement and marketing expert Abhaya Pandey both agreed that it does.
In journalism, news is said to cover stories from all directions; North, East, West and South or “NEWS”. Advertisement also applies the same initials but here it stands for Novelty, Emotion, Women and Sex. Darwin’s theory of evolution also revolves around these four factors that affect the survival of human beings.
According to Dhakal, the human body is like the hardware of a computer and the mind, its software. It is the human mind that has helped the species to survive. “When talking about survival of the fittest, human beings are the most unprotected creatures. We are not even protected by fur, scales or feathers,” said Dhakal, “However, we have been able to survive and evolve as a result of our human mind. The mind has helped to overcome our physical limitations and weaknesses to protect us from nature and other animals.”
Dhakal said, “We need to discuss the relation between the consumer’s mentality and our evolution. Our behaviour is not only limited to the things that we learn today. Human behaviour is directed by the instincts of our predecessors that goes back even to the time of hunting and gathering.” Our genes affect how we behave, suggested Dhakal.
According to Pandey, if we ask for the reason why one prefers high calorie food products, we might get the answer that they were influenced by the attractive advertisements. But scientifically speaking, human beings are attracted to such products because of their genetically inherited need for calories. In ancient times, humans would get malnourished as the food was not available all the time around. So the human body stored calories whenever it was abundant. So even today, the natural instinct results in our attraction to calorie rich foods.
Darwin’s theory states that novelty is also a necessity of survival. Human beings are naturally curious. So they like to analyse whether a new product will be beneficial to them or not.
Similarly, in advertisement, new and fresh content attracts the attention. People either remember the product or the advertisement. Studies reveal that consumers sometimes only remember the advertisement through jingles or the plot and not the product itself.
Darwin’s theory, can also explain that the emotions are directly linked with advertising as well. If an advertisement is able to touch the emotions it makes a great impact.
Pandey suggested that advertisements most often use happy emotions to influence people. Dhakal agreed that the bio chemicals that are released when a person is happy, extends their life. Even if the products do not include such chemicals in them, the commercials with positive stories help to produce such chemicals. According to the panelists, fear is another emotion that affects people greatly. Fear of the unknown helps people survive. But while fear might be more effective than happiness, it is less used in advertisements.
The panelists also explained why the women are the subject of most advertisements. This is because women are generally considered more physically attractive than men. They attract the attention of viewers immediately, whether the viewers are men, women or infants. But it is not the same for women consumers. It is more difficult for women to be attracted to a commercial that has a man as the model.
While sex is still considered a taboo in Nepali society and its application is limited in Nepali advertisements, it is more common in foreign cultures, they said. But again, sex is also used as a factor to attract the male audience. This is because the consequences of having sex is more serious in females than in males such as dealing with childbirth and the question of whether the male will be present to raise the child in the future, said the panelists. “While male subjects can also be used to attract a female audience, it will work for commercials that run for periods longer than 3-4 months because it takes longer for females to take notice of the male subjects,” said Dhakal.
In conclusion, the panelists summarised that Darwin’s theory revolves around the “survival of the fittest.” People have to accept the changes that eventually come. Even for the advertisement companies, it will be a survival of the fittest. That is why understanding the natural instinct of humans is important for advertising companies. All humans evolved from the same primates. Hence, they all are influenced by novelty, emotions, women and sex.