Political Ads May Actually Make Us Spend More

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With both major political parties hosting their presidential nominating conventions this month, general election season has well and truly gotten underway. Whether you prefer paying attention to radio, TV, online news, or social media, get ready for an unceasing barrage of advertising in support of one candidate and bashing the other. Common knowledge says we tend to tune out ads, not to mention frustrating partisanship, but a new study suggests that actually, it gets us in the mood to shop.

Marketing researchers at Indiana University have just published a paper analyzing the effects of political ads on consumers. While it may feel like your media is wall-to-wall politics this autumn, it turns out that a campaign video might make you pay more attention to the straightforward sales pitches from other businesses. As coauthor Beth Fossen puts it, "Nonpolitical ads that follow political ads benefit through a reduction in audience decline and an increase in positive post-ad chatter."

Not only that, but the researchers found that this effect is truly nonpartisan, occurring on networks with overt bias on all ends of the political spectrum. We tend to think that we as individuals are too smart to get caught up in something as widespread as basic psychology — especially when it comes to ads, which we'll do almost anything to avoid, if we can. But it's easy to fall into a stress-relief spiral when it comes to imbibing media, especially during a pandemic. Keep an eye on what products or ideas look good to you, and when they start to seem like a great idea.