Why do Commercials speak in the first person?

“I know that I have choices when treating my asthma. For me XXXXX was a choice that my doctor and I decided on.”

“I know that I can save 10% at this store if I shop during XXXX and YYY on ZZZ.”
Really. What is going on here?

They are attempting to foster familiarity with the viewer. Similar interests, similar views. Trust me, I’m just like you, or your neighbor.

Using second person (“you”) both makes it sound accusatory and plainly obvious that they’re selling you something.

You’ll occasionally see third person, like Enzyte Bob, but those are still doing what Duckster says, giving an example they want you to identify with.

“There is one thing they’ve got that you haven’t got. A testimonial.”

People respond well to hearing other people’s personal stories; the commercials are using this.

It’s plain old more convincing to have a “friend” tell you to buy a product than to have some announcer say “This product will make you happier. Buy this product.” “Sunshine Detergent is amazing!” sounds more impersonal than “I love Sunshine Detergent!”

**Duckster **has hit on the head.

But that only applies to good deed doers.

In the case of medications, I suspect saying something like “this pill will make you better” is more complicated ethically and legally than saying “this pill made me better”. Too close to offering medical advice. That’s why they always say to ask your doctor.

I think Smeghead has hit it. Saying that prices are 10% lower at store xxxx or that drug yyyy is efficacious for whatever gives you very vulnerable, testable assertions. Just portraying somebody’s personal experience evades this, taking you in effect from GQ into IMHO.


Ads that have testimonials are just one example of social proof. It’s a very powerful technique for getting compliance, made doubly effective by the fact that it’s very subtle.

Laugh tracks, though we all know they are fake, have the effect of making a show more funny. Experiments have shown that even people who are aware and disdainful of laugh tracks rate comedy as funnier when it has a laugh track.

You also see it when you see collection jars or tip jars – smart people put a few dollars in so it looks like other people have contributed. The same thing goes for telethons, when they talk to a caller who is donating – if other people are doing it, you should too.

Another thing advertisers do is claim they are the biggest company, or their product is the best selling, or similar things. It’s the same deal.

It works in venues other than advertising too: there are several studies that show that suicide rates increase measurably following media coverage of a a famous person’s suicide, then decline as the story gets older. Other experiments found that if a bunch of people (who are in the know) ignore a clear emergency (smoke coming from a wall panel, a person that has apparently fallen down and is bleeding, etc), experiment participants are less likely to do anything about the emergency, because no one else is reacting.

Advertisers are most certainly aware of the power of peer pressure and social proof; it works, even if you know it’s fake.

Clarification : I am not talking about testimonials. In a circumstance where an actual photo, or video is displayed and a person speaks on their behalf.

Such as Dr.Tendler and Restasis, I understand perfectly what is going on there, and I am meaning to address those situations.

To reinforce the points made above, it may be true that “anecdote is not the plural of data” but the very fact that on these boards (as an example) we have to make this point continually shows how much the contrary is believed by many people.

The most recent commercials refer to him as “Smilin Bob!” :slight_smile: