The other day, I walked into my dad’s office and his TV was on. PitBull (the entertainer, not the animal) was on the screen looking good. His beats were pounding and he was walking through a night club with sunglasses on. As he passed the others in the club and twisted off a beer cap, the beautiful ladies nearby would magically swirl around in a computerized-genie-like effect and then, transformed by the power of Pit bull’s beats and beer, they would emerge from the swirl smiling, dancing and wearing less clothing. I was sucked in. I’ve been thinking about this commercial ever since.
Why? Why do I love this commercial so much? How did those ad people know it would work on me? I do love Pitbull, no doubt about that, but Bud… not so much. Night clubs and high heels? Um, no. Shirts that could expose a breast if you turn too fast? No thanks. Did I want all of those things for the few seconds that I first watched that commercial? Yeah, I kinda did.
Advertisers know what catches my attention and they know the things that evoke a reaction and a response. They know that I probably have some experience in a night club and that sexy is… well, sexy to me. They know that if I watch that commercial enough times, there’s a good chance I’ll start to associate pleasant feelings (sexiness, friends, dancing, smiling) with the thing their featured product, and I’m not the only one.
Why are the ad people so good at this? They study. They research people and tendencies, trends and habits. They get that the target audience at any time of day, while watching a particular program, probably has memories and experiences that will back up the flashes of images and sound that they skillfully arrange on the tv screen. They know how color affects mood, how music attracts attention and then they put all this information together and suggest that a mediocre product might make your life a little more glamorous. Also, they probably, as individuals, have good intuition about these things.
What if we took our own moods, habits and tendencies that seriously? If we knew ourselves even better than the ad wo/men do? What if we were able to understand how our mind works and how the mind affects our bodies and our choices and our behaviors? In the practice of yoga, Svadyaya or self-study, is a really important theme. We need to know, not only, how bodies work in a general way (brain function, how to maintain an healthy body) but also how our individual system and mind works in that svadyaya way.
Ads work because they appeal to the senses in a general way (we do the part that makes it personal just by watching…) AND the ads run over and over again. Frequent exposure is key to advertising success. The PitBull ad that plays over and over again eventually gets me to feel or sense that beer can make me fun and sexy. The ad folks are helping me to associate the whole scene with the product: people having fun and dancing and attracting the opposite sex while holding their beer. It works and that’s why advertising is such a big business.
Interested in how the brain makes links? Sean Brotherson, Family Science Specialist, does a great job of explaining how the brain links to experiences in his article Understanding Brain Development in Young Children.
The things that we link to can support the intentions that we set for ourselves, but a lot of the time, our senses go to the sensory-candy that is presented to us by other people intending to sell us shit. (I feel myself whining inside, “But the candy tastes so goooood. PitBull. Sexy ladies. Beeeeer. I can just let that roll off. It won’t get meeeeeeeee…”)
What we do and what we look at, what we read and even the messages that we tell ourselves when things don’t work out or our thighs don’t look like our neighbors’ thighs— all that stuff starts to form a link in our mind. We link to these things and the brain starts to wire up so that it is easier to think that way again. We get used to the pattern. The brain is made to make connections and notice patterns. So mindfulness and awareness of the things we link to have a big impact over how we think, and how we think is the basis of our behavior. The meaning of the word, Pranama, encompasses the ideas of perception, comprehension and understanding. Pramana is the basis for what we do. How does the fantasy world of PitBull and nightclubs fit in for me? I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
Yoga helps us develop the ability to pay attention in a sustained way. Sometimes, that means we start to remove the sensory-candy from our daily experience and we go for something more nourishing. Maybe we make space in our day for space and quiet. Maybe we have that experience of making space in yoga asana and we allow ourselves moments of stillness in our postures. We can take steps and create samskaras, habits and patterns, that support and nourish the pursuit of a focused mind and deep self-awareness. And I’m pretty sure we can do it without the help of advertisements.