Advertising vs. Selective Hearing

I have mastered the art of “selective hearing.” My parents call it “tuning things out,” but I prefer the former.

Between logos, commercials and digital advertising, some studies suggest we’re hit with as many as 20,000 ads every day. We’re getting talked to death from every direction. So selective hearing has not only become a valuable skill, but, in my case, a means to keep my sanity.

Topping the list of things I refuse to hear: television commercials. During commercial breaks, you can typically find me head down, thumbs busy tweeting, texting or candy crushing. What you will certainly NOT catch me doing is watching the commercials.

But I’ve noticed that marketers have some new tricks up their sleeves. One is to convince us that their commercial is something it isn’t.


If any commercial is going to catch my ear and bring me out of my iPhone-induced trance, it’s going to be for the newest romantic comedy. Sears has tricked me time and time again with its “Connecting Flight” faux trailer. A movie about two bloggers who fall in love while stranded in an airport is right up my alley. A commercial for refrigerators and dishwashers? Not so much. But the commercial drew me in, and now I associate the Sears brand with appliances. Well played, Sears.

Cacique Queso Fresco

I’ve become obsessed with the Food Network. Which is funny because my best “dish” is a grilled cheese. Regardless, I am fascinated by the chefs and shows. So when I hear Aaron Sanchez start talking, I assume that Chopped is back on and it’s time to watch. But Cacique Queso Fresco’s commercial featuring Sanchez has fooled me more than once. It’s an ad for cheese. Nothing special. But adding Sanchez to the commercial, with his familiar voice and kitchen cred, draws me in. Maybe I’ll even consider adding it to my next grilled cheese.


One thing that is sure to catch my attention is if my TV suddenly goes silent. My first instinct is that it’s broken. So I look up nervously, usually to discover a commercial that doesn’t have sound. Sometimes I put my head right back down, but sometimes I’m intrigued and keep watching. Pepsi ran one of these ads during the 2008 Super Bowl. Called “Bob’s House,” it was designed to make a point about what it’s like for hearing-impaired people to operate in a hearing world. Not all silent ads have such a noble cause, but this one was definitely worth looking up for.

Advertising has always been a creative field. But now, advertisers have to get creative not only in how they present the product, but also in how they grab our attention. Drawing me away from level 65 of Candy Crush is a tall order, so if a commercial can do it, it’s probably worth watching.

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