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The Butterfly Effect on Advertising

We’ve all heard of it:  the butterfly effect.  Imagine if a butterfly flapped its wings in Argentina and caused a tornado in Oklahoma.  Imagine if tripping on a curb in the year 2000 set off a series of events that led you to meet your spouse in 2011.  Now, imagine watching TV and seeing an ad that changes your life forever.

Isaac Newton found that with two bodies in space, he could easily calculate the force of gravity between them.  However, if even one more body was added to the picture, the solution became utter chaos because the smallest perturbation by the mass of the third body would cause changes that continually compounded upon one another until the future was completely unpredictable.

In physics, the human life is considered an “n-body” problem because of the insurmountable amount of variables in our daily lives — daily lives which are also bombarded with advertising.  We see product placements in our movies and favorite shows, in magazines, on the Internet, within Facebook and even while just driving down the road.  Each and every one of these ads, and transitively the products they promote, conceivably could start a chain of reactions that alter your life forever.

Imagine:   On her way to work one day, a woman sees a compelling ad for a continuing education class.  This influences her to enroll, and through supplementing her knowledge base, she gains more confidence in her abilities.  This confidence carries over into her job, where it is noticed by her bosses and rewarded with a promotion.  Through her newfound influence, she eventually leads a team that designs a new product that substantially increases the company’s revenue.  A new division is created to handle the increase, necessitating the hire of 100 more employees.  The lives of each of the new hires and their families, and the lives of everyone who is influenced by this extra cash flow — in addition to those affected by the new product itself — have been changed forever.  And the changes continually compound:  the new hire can now send their daughter to college; the employee with the raise buys a boat from a struggling company; and on and on … All because of an ad.

Every advertising contact we make in a day influences our thoughts, our purchases, even our way of life at times, and in effect can change the course of the future on a larger level than casually imagined.  In our heavily marketed universe, people often say ads have become so prolific they are ignored and don’t affect their daily lives — but they could not be more wrong.  Every product, and every ad, has its own potential butterfly effect.  The decision you make today about which shampoo to buy could affect your hair’s bounce factor … and may just influence the 2016 presidential election.


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