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Experts warn against advertisers trying to hijack our dreams

In a recent ad campaign, beer company Coors attempted to infiltrate unconscious minds with ‘refreshing dreams’ of its beverages. A cohort of dream doctors is now calling for an end to the practice before it takes off.

Soon, a once relaxing nap may not be enough to escape the infamous Go Compare opera man, or Muller’s nauseating ‘rice, rice, baby.’

Anyone who watches the Super Bowl knows that spectators don’t require much encouragement to drink. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop beer company Coors from going above and beyond with its partnered ad campaign earlier this year.

It’s the worst kept secret that commercials are filled with subversive messages, but Coors has taken the principal to a whole new level by audaciously attempting to hijack people’s dreams. Anyone else picturing a corporate Freddy Krueger?

As part of its Super Bowl campaign, the company encouraged people to play a short online video before bed followed by an eight-hour ‘scoundscape’ through the night. Coors hoped that this ritual would prompt ‘refreshing dreams’ of its beers in the noggins of suggestible consumers.

It’s unclear how many took part in the process and whether or not it even worked, but experts have warned that – gimmick or not – Coors may have opened the door to a troubling future for advertising.

Speaking on the cognitive trick officially known as ‘targeted dream incubation,’ Harvard neuroscience professor Bob Stickgold stated, ‘They’re trying to push an addictive drug on people who are naïve to what’s being done to them. I don’t know if it can get much worse than that.’

‘Anything you could imagine an advertising campaign for, at all, could arguably be enhanced by weaponising sleep.’

The prospect of advertisers utilising targeted dream incubation on a widescale seems farfetched today, yet Stickgold isn’t alone in his desire to nip it in the bud now. In fact, an open letter sounding alarm over targeted dream incubation within sales has been signed by as many as 35 dream researchers globally.

The header of the letter reads: ‘TDI-advertising is not some fun gimmick, but a slippery slope with real consequences. The potential for misuse of these technologies is as ominous as it is obvious.’

Over the past decade, TDI research has been viewed in a largely positive light. For one, hypnotic therapies are regularly used to put smokers off cigarettes, and a 2014 study even suggested TDI is capable of reducing gender and racial bias.

While TDI does technically refer to the power of suggestion before sleep, Stickgold provides some sobering thoughts about how advertisers could worm their way into thoughts at any moment.

Estimates suggest around 30 million people now have listening devices like Alexa or Google Home in their bedrooms, and Stickgold believes that without strict regulation advertisers could start buying slots for audio product placement – most likely a subtle tone associated with a product, and not a full-scale commercial.

‘You could have this sort of 1984 situation where advertisers buy time on these devices, and nobody ever knows they’re hearing them,’ he states.

The Federal Trade Commission has already moved to limit certain forms of subliminal advertising, such as the flashing of words or images during films and television shows. However, it is yet to comment on whether it will wade into the issue of TDI-advertising.

For now, you can probably rest easy. But if soon you wake up with a profound desire to join a new bank branch, you’ll know Alexa has to go.


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