NEW 3rd International Edition - Jan 2009

Max Sutherland's book is written for advertisers, agencies & consumers.

Used by students of marketing, advertising, journalism and mass communications.
Read a samplechapter

What's Unique?

Conclusions from tracking the effects of many hundreds of ad campaigns continuously, week by week, over a period of nearly 15 years in America, Asia, Australasia and Europe. Ad campaigns for companies like Gillette, Campbells Soup, McDonalds, AT&T, General Motors, Kodak, Shell and Qantas.

Draws on academic research into communication psychology and buyer behavior but reduces the 'fog index' to make the findings clearer and more actionable.

This is what readers say.

Dr. Max Sutherland is an independent marketing psychologist and consultant in the U.S.A. and Australia, a regular columnist for trade publications and Adjunct Professor of marketing at Bond University.

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Introduction to Advertising and the Mind of the Consumer

For many years advertising has been riddled with mystique and apparent contradictions. (It doesn't work on me yet it must be working on somebody.) Advertisers have often said: 'I know that half my advertising is wasted- but I don't know which half!'

In more recent years, market research technology has begun to change all that. Continuous tracking of ads on the web as well as on TV and other media has uncovered surprising insights about what works and what doesn't.

Read Chapter 1: Influencing People: Myths and Mechanisms
You can read the first chapter here. Find out why advertising has remained a mystery for so long and why most effects of advertising fall well short of persuasion - but can still be effective.

Advertising - the Mystery

Much of the advertising we encounter doesn't impart news and it is difficult for us to see how it works on us. We as consumers generally believe it does not really work on us personally. Despite that, advertisers keep on advertising. So something must be working-but on whom, and exactly how?

This book synthesizes what is known from the large body of academic and practical research while avoiding the reader having to wade through mountains of the heavyweight literature. It summarizes the state-of-the-art knowledge and lays bare what we know and what we don't know about advertising; it examines how it works as well as what works, what doesn't and why. It demystifies the effects of advertising and describes the psychological mechanisms underlying it.

Who the Book is Written For

The book is written primarily for those who foot the bill for advertising and those who produce advertising. In other words those many organizations involved with advertising -the marketing directors, marketing managers, product managers, advertising managers, account execs, media people and creatives.

However, like the previous editions, I hope that it will also be read by interested consumers who wonder how advertising works and why advertisers keep on advertising. Understanding the mechanisms and their limitations tends to lessen rather than heighten the anxieties we may have about wholesale, unconscious manipulation by advertising.

How Much Power Does it Have?

Like those of tribal medicine men, ad agencies' powers and methods seem to be all the greater because of the mystery. Books like Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders enhance this image of the power of advertising agencies because they portray them as having witch- doctor-like powers

Sustained ad effects occur a lot less often than you might think. Until recently these failures stood a good chance of going unrecognized because the majority of campaigns were not tracked in a formal way. In more recent years, advertising has begun to be measured more objectively and more often; indeed continuously.

This highlights the hard fact that many ads still fail. Part of the reason is advertising agencies get too little in the way of 'news' to work with. But the other part of it is an historical over-reliance on intuition and introspection.

In the general population there are those who believe that advertising is all powerful and that the mechanism of advertising must be unconscious and subliminal and that this is why its effects do not seem to be open to introspection. Such views are associated with the 'dark and manipulative' view of advertising.

This book reveals a much more benign interpretation of advertising's so-called 'unconscious' effects. In elaborating on some of the subtler mechanisms of advertising, it dispels many myths and exaggerated claims. At the same time it reveals just how subtle advertising's influences can be and how much impact it can have on the success or failure of one brand over another.

How This Book Can Help

The book will assist advertising agencies in diagnosing the why of what works - and what doesn't. It shows advertisers how to get better results from their advertising budget and their advertising agency. It reveals to consumers how advertising works to influence which brands we choose.

Book Contents

Part A: Why advertising has remained a mystery for so long


  1. Influencing people: myths and mechanisms
  2. Image and reality: seeing things in different ways
  3. Subliminal advertising: the biggest myth of all
  4. Conformity: the popular thing to do
  5. The advertising message: oblique and indirect
  6. ‘Under the radar’: paid product placement
  7. Silent symbols and badges of identity
  8. Vicarious experience and virtual reality
  9. Messages, reminders and rewards: how ads speak to us
  10. What's this I'm watching? The elements that make up an ad
  11. ‘Behavioural targeting’: consumers in the crosshairs
  12. The limits of advertising

Part B: What works, what doesn't, and why


  1. Continuous tracking: are you being followed?
  2. New product launches: don't pull the plug too early
  3. Planning campaign strategy around consumers' mental filing cabinets
  4. What happens when you stop advertising?
  5. The effectiveness of funny ads: what a laugh!
  6. Learning to use shorter-length TV commercials
  7. Seasonal advertising
  8. Underweight advertising: execution anorexia
  9. Why radio ads aren't recalled
  10. Maximizing ad effectiveness: develop a unique and consistent style
  11. Sequels
  12. Corporate tracking of image and issues
  13. The Web: advertising in a new age
  14. 'Mental reach': they see your ad but does it get through?
  15. Measurement of advertising effects in memory
  16. The buy-ology of mind
  17. Conclusion


How to prompt ad awareness.

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