How to Spend: Avoid Advertising (Podcast)

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Your financial health is dependent on avoiding financial mistakes as much as possible. Unfortunately, the health of many companies is dependent on getting you to purchase their products, regardless of if that purchase would be your mistake.

Inviting their advertising into your life is counterproductive to your financial well-being. Instead, avoiding the lure of advertising is essential to healthy spending.

On Friday, April 1, 2022, Megan Russell was interviewed by Michael Morton of Financial Planning for Entrepreneurs podcast. Michael Morton is the founder of Morton Financial Advice where he provides hourly or subscription-based financial planning and wealth management.

In this podcast, we discuss the hazard of advertising for your budget and how to not fall prey to marketing tactics.

The episode was released on Tuesday, April 19, 2022. You can listen to the audio here:

 

Additional Reading

Transcript

Mike 0:00
Welcome to Financial Planning for Entrepreneurs and Tech Professionals. I’m your host, Mike Morton, CFP and RLP. Today, I have here on the show: Megan Russell! Megan Russell is back with us again. She has worked in finance for her whole life seems like. She’s the Chief Operating Officer at Marotta Wealth Management. She’s written over 700 financial articles that can be found on MarottaonMoney.com. Megan, welcome back.

Megan 0:36
Thank you. I’m looking forward to continuing our series.

Mike 0:39
Yes. Wait, it’s got to be more than 700. It’s been 700 articles for a few months. But you crank out so many articles every month? It’s got to be at least 750 by now or 800? I don’t know the last time you updated that number?

Megan 0:51
I don’t know either. Yeah. So, it’s at least over.

Mike 0:53
So we’re accurate there. So Megan’s back! We were talking the last time she was here about healthy spending, and aligning your spending now and in the future with your values. So go back and check out that episode if you didn’t hear, because there were a lot of great ideas about how to get started on that. So we thought we would continue on this topic.

Megan’s written a lot of different articles around the idea of healthy spending, and how to make sure you’re just feeling great about the way that you’re going through life. Spending money on things that will bring you the most joy.

Megan 1:32
Yes, you should have a budget that brings you the most joy it can.

Mike 1:35
Yes, the budget that will bring you the most joy. I try to avoid the B word. But budget that can bring you the most joy. And this is core to financial planning, right?

Megan 1:44
Most people dislike budgeting because they think about it as cutting out the things that they love. But listen to our last episode. You don’t have to cut out the things that you love. In fact, if you’re cutting out the things that you love the most, you’re doing budgeting wrong. You need to cut out the things you don’t love. Everybody always starts with their guilty pleasures: the things that they really like, but they feel like they shouldn’t. No, you could like what you like! Cut out the things that you don’t like from your budget to make savings.

Mike 2:14
Yeah, and you know, I was thinking back to that discussion. I love that thought, because you read all these things on the internet about how to budget and “Cut out your daily coffee” and how much money that will save you. But if daily coffee brings you so much joy, then don’t do that. Find other ways or other strategies or whatever it is. So the cookie cutter advice that you read is what — I think you’re saying is — really turns people off to the whole idea.

Megan 2:41
That’s right, yeah. And you want to customize your budget to your goals. If you’re not doing that, then you’re not really making a financial plan. You’re just stealing somebody else’s financial plan and hoping it’s going to work for you. That’s not going to work. You need a personalized financial plan; you deserve one.

Mike 2:57
100%! Okay, so last time was healthy spending, go back and check that out on how to work on that as a first step. Today’s topic is avoid advertising.

Megan 3:09
That’s right.

Mike 3:10
So Megan, what does that mean and why do we need to avoid advertising?

Megan 3:14
So in our modern era, most of our spending journeys begin, unfortunately, with some sort of advertising, whether it’s just the packaging speaking to you in a grocery store, whether it’s an ad that’s interrupting some podcast you’re listening to. It might be something it’s specifically targeting you and your email or specifically targeting you on your social media site. But advertising is everywhere. And it is such a big business. And falling prey to advertising can be one of the things that really makes spending not enjoyable. And so today, we’re going to talk about the strategies where you can avoid advertising and avoid its influence on your spending habits, so that you can maintain that path of joy that you’ve made in your budget.

Mike 4:02
Yeah, two quick comments, and we’ll dive in. One. This really aligns with our last conversation. Now that you’ve gone through the exercise and figure out what brings you joy, you need to stay in those lanes. And the advertising is really pulling you away from your plan, because obviously they’re trying to get you to be involved in certain products or buy certain things.

Megan 4:23
Right.

Mike 4:23
And this, Megan, is good timing, because — we should have had this podcast two days ago! — because yesterday in my inbox, I got an advertisement. We all get a bazillion different emails every day. I’m trying to unsubscribe, you click the unsubscribe, but…

Megan 4:39
And then it doesn’t go away!

Mike 4:40
Yeah, it doesn’t go away. Why is that? And why also, when you click unsubscribe, it’s “Oh, thank you very much. It takes up to 10 days to unsubscribe you.” Up to 10 days to unsubscribe you! Where are we living?

Anyway, so yesterday, I got an advertisement, and it totally got me. And I bought tickets to a concert which, luckily, it does bring me a lot of joy. I’m looking forward to it. I bought two tickets for my wife and I. Oh, hopefully she doesn’t listen to podcast! I think it’s gonna be a surprise. But I don’t think she listens to my own podcast. So that’s okay.

So I got this in my inbox, right? “Hey, this concert’s coming up. You could buy tickets early. Get in ahead of the public.” And I was like, “Ah, I definitely want to do that!” and clicked on it and spent tons of money before I even knew it. So today’s topic is very timely: avoiding advertising. So how do we see less ads so they don’t get us out of our lane?

Turn Off Marketing with Banks and Credit Cards

Megan 5:36
Yeah. So the first strategy to avoiding advertising is to just not see as much advertising. And can you really achieve that goal enough for it to be your only strategy? No, you can’t. You’re going to see ads, so you need more strategy than just this one. But at the same time, you can reduce the number of ads that you see, and you can reduce how customized they are to you. And so I think the first step is to just see how many places you can turn off marketing.

You’d be surprised how many places are going to sell your data so that they can market to you. So for example, every time you open a credit card: most credit cards have things in their clauses that let them sell information about what you’re doing with the credit card to advertisers. And so you know, your favorite credit card might be a source of a lot of the spam that comes in your email, or a lot of the spam that comes in the mail. That seems a little too close to home. So one way that you can just start is for every credit card you have, turn it over, call the number on the back, and then just ask the person to maximize your privacy. Tell them you don’t want your data shared anywhere. And they’ll tell you that they’ve gotten all of your privacy, and then ask them “Is that all of it?” and almost always you’ll have to say “Is that all of it?” four times. That’s my experience. Four times of asking them if they’ve turned off all of the marketing, and they’ll be like, “Oh, there is one more” and then they’ll turn that one off. And you’ll say “Is that all?” and there’ll be one more.

So in my experience, ask four times. It doesn’t take that long to ask them four times, because every time the answer is just turn it off. Turn it off. Turn off the next one. But that will stop new credit card offers. That’ll stop some of the “Oh, you purchased this, and now here’s the coupon that we want to entice you into more purchases like that.” So the credit card is one really big one.

The bank is another one. If you open a new bank account, a lot of bank accounts will sell some of the information. And so maximizing your privacy at the bank account. These are two really big ones too, because they know a lot about your spending habits. And so they’re going to be better at manipulating you. They already know what gets you, and they’ll be able to sneak in, get a foot in the door.

Mike 7:50
Those are two great tips to start us off. So calling the number on the back of their credit card. Just simply saying turn up the privacy. Turn it up. Turn it all the way up. Turn it up to 11. And the same thing with your bank. And you know that reminds me too, Megan, of speaking of our budgeting — since, we’re on that topic. It reminds me of when you’ve got your internet or your TV subscription, and every couple of years you notice the price just kind of ticks up. And if you call them and say, “Hey, I’m canceling the service.” They’ll be like, “No, you can’t do that. Are you sure?” “Yeah, I’m sure” “Here’s an offer.” After you say it, again, three times: “Yes, I’m canceling.” They’ll be like, “Oh, it turns out there is an offer we can give you for 50% off for another year.” Oh, gets you! Why don’t you just give that to me, then?!

Megan 8:35
Why don’t you just give it to everyone?

Mike 8:38
Exactly! Okay, so calling the credit cards. And then the other thing you mentioned there, too, that I want to touch on was the customization. You know, because we’re now getting very used to getting customized ads. And I’ve noticed this it’s like, first, you’re on one website, on one computer, maybe researching something. And then an ad shows up on your email on some other computer and some other device, you’re like, “Wait a sec, how did they get? How did they know I was looking at that kind of thing?” So are customized ads, particularly dangerous in your opinion?

Megan 9:11
I think that the more they know about you, the more that they’re going to know what gets you to click on an ad, what gets you to research the product, what gets you to buy the product. For example, when you see an ad on like a social media site, and you click on it — like maybe you’re on Facebook, you click on an ad — Facebook keeps track of all the ads you’ve ever interacted with whether it’s you’ve just stayed and looked at it a little bit longer, or you click on it. And they’re using that to figure out what new ads they can show you that will continue those looks and those clicks. And so it kind of sneaks in. Whatever is working on you, they’re going to do more of it. And then when that works, they’re going to do more of that. It’s like machine learning, but it’s for specifically how to get you to interact with an ad. So it’s a lot! And it’s a lot to try to combat, which is why we’ve got a whole podcast about strategies to overcome advertising, because if we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves falling prey to all the ads.

Mike 10:08
Okay. All right. So on this strategy, the first strategy of seeing less ads, obviously getting the credit cards, the bank accounts, what else under this topic?

Tell Charities Not to Share Your Information

Megan 10:16
Yep. So after you’re done turning over your credit cards and calling the number, calling your bank, places like that, another place that you might not think to call, or you might not think to do is when you’re donating to charity, you should actually ask them not to sell your information. So if you’re really charitably inclined, and you give to some of the really big national charities, they tend to have a network by which they share donor information. So maybe you’re supporting No Kid Hungry, but they’re going to also share your information with the Red Cross, and then suddenly in the mail, you’ll be getting letters from the Red Cross saying, “Hey, you should consider donating to us.” And then once you’re on that donor list, they’re going to share your information with another one, and it’ll snowball. So people who give to charity a lot will know that their mail explodes. Sometimes you give to one charity, and then it’s like every charity in the world is in your inbox telling you that they need money. And so another way that you can do that is anytime you give a gift to somewhere, ask them not to share your information. And if you do start getting letters in the mail, they’ll normally have fine print, that’s “If you don’t want us to share your information, here’s a number to call.” So once you start in the pool of them sharing your information, you need to start calling the numbers to not get it any more.

Mike 11:31
Holy smokes.

Megan 11:34
But another thing is that just knowing that’s what they’re doing can sometimes be helpful. So when you get that — the Red Cross is great. I really like them — but when you get that random mailing, and you’re like, “Why did I get this?” Think about it as this is advertising. They are advertising to me right now. And it helps you stop from maybe giving to more places than you really want to.

Mike 11:54
Oh my gosh, Megan, I never knew that there was so much sharing among those. I mean, it makes sense sort of, if put on my one hat you know, like trying to get more money into my organization. But man, that’s terrible. Like when I’m thinking about it, that they would just share so much information and then just explode your mailbox with “Oh yeah, you gave to one place and you should give to everybody too.”

Megan 12:14
I don’t think any of them realize too how much it snowballs. One charity, maybe they just share with one other charity. But if that charity shares with another one, you’ve got kind of how gossip moves around the room. “Oh, I don’t gossip. But I told Susie and Susie till Jen and Jen told…” and it turns into a big thing. I think it’s like that. I don’t think there’s anything malicious going on quite the same way that maybe targeted ads have. But it is just another thing that you need to be resilient against. If you plan your giving and you give intentionally to specific places and you have your goals and your budget, you don’t want to fall prey to a cry for help from another charity that is actually just advertising to you.

Mike 12:53
Yeah. And I love the way you put that as “Just view it as advertising.” And you should do that. Now I’m thinking about it when I get mail from my mailbox. I know my inbox is definitely advertising but the same with the mailbox and stuff. Even if it may appeal to you — right pulls the heartstrings or whatever else — but just realize, “Oh, yep, that’s advertising.” Set it aside. Think about it, see if it fits into your plan, and then go from there. All right, cool. So good to know that and good to have some strategies. Anything else under seeing less ads?

Unsubscribe from Sponsored Newsletters and Websites

Megan 13:22
Yep. So another one is unsubscribing from any sort of sponsored product newsletters. So these hide in a lot of different places. The obvious ones are you shop at some website, you order some things, and they automatically subscribe you in the newsletter. And now you’re getting — maybe you bought some shoes, and you’re getting shoe ads all the time in your inbox, every shoe sale, you’re hearing about it. Well, you can unsubscribe from that, and it would be better. Because you already know about that website. It’s not like you’re gonna miss anything. You know about that website, you bought shoes from there. Let’s say you were totally happy about that shoe purchase. When you need shoes, again, you’ll go back there. You don’t need it coming into your inbox every week, enticing you with the latest sale or the latest fashion. And there’s a lot of things like that.

There’s also the little hidden ones where sometimes you might go to something that you really like or an author you really like or an artist you really like or maybe even it’s a product you really like — One time I went to this website because it had coloring book pages that you could get that were all themed around honey and bees. And I’m homeschooling my daughter and I was like “This will be so awesome. She’ll love doing these.” So I had to give them my email in order to get the coloring pages. Now I’m subscribed to this bee honey company, and they’re sending me all sorts of ads about their honey. They’re telling me when they’re having honey sales. Unsubscribe. It doesn’t have to be enticing for it to be great for you to unsubscribe from too. Even if it’s just annoying, having the slow drip of advertising in your inbox is gonna wear you down and then when that thing that really is enticing comes in you’ll have used up a little too much of your energy just going through the trash. It’ll be like, “Oh, I found something cool!” It might even inspire your prey instincts of “Oh, the hunt! I was hunting through all this junk and all this bad stuff in my inbox, and oh, I found a good one.” You don’t want to feel that. You want to just be like “That one’s an ad. That one’s an ad. Unsubscribe, unsubscribe.”

Mike 15:21
Yeah, well, we were talking about that before, too. I love this idea that — of course, the drip advertising. And that’s literally the word that we use in the advertising industry: drip advertising. And it works. Man. There’s a reason why you get this stuff in your inbox. With zero cost email, you’re going to just keep getting these kinds of things. So do your best to unsubscribe, which can be a challenge. And then the other thing we’re talking just before we started recording was if some people don’t have email, which blows my mind, but how happy those people are that don’t have email. You don’t need to get so much email. Get rid of it, get off of those things. Have less email, and trust me, you will feel better. Everyone can relate to that with their inbox when they log in, and it’s 2500 unread messages. It’s crazy.

Megan 16:09
There’s some where if you unsubscribe, it doesn’t go away. You unsubscribe and it doesn’t go away. Sometimes it’s because you have to unsubscribe from lots of different lists. They’re like, “Oh, we thought you only wanted to unsubscribe from the news. We didn’t know you wanted to unsubscribe from promotionals” and you have to unsubscribe from more, but if you really can’t unsubscribe, most email programs have the option of Message Filters where you can be like, if it’s from this email, send it to my trash can. So you can always do options like that, where you’re like filtering it into your spam folder or something like that.

Mike 16:42
Yeah, that’s a really good idea. Because some of these, again, like some of these are just almost impossible to unsubscribe from. So that’s a really good idea too. Try to notice where they’re coming from and collecting them. Now can we do get, I’ve heard what 3000 impressions a day in terms of advertising, just from, you know, looking around, being on a computer, walking outside, watching a little TV. It’s just endless. I mean, we’re looking at boxes that come in the mail or boxes around your house. Oh, it’s just everywhere. We’ve got a couple of tips here on trying to reduce those number of impressions by seamless ads, anything else where we could try to reduce those number of ads that we’re seeing throughout the day?

Megan 17:19
Yes, there’s a lot more. I did want to say about that sponsored newsletters, though. There’s another one that’s hiding in there, which is that there’s some blogs that actually every post is a sponsored post, basically. Every new one is a product review. And they’re very — if you read all of their articles, you realize that they’re very capricious. It’s “Oh, this is the absolute best cleaning product. No, this one’s the best cleaning product.” And they have a lot of articles saying a lot of contradictory things. And it’s because they’re really sponsored websites is the best way to think about it. They’re just one big spot for product placement. And there’s some really great ones out there that have really helpful information with really wonderful articles. But they’re all ads! And identifying that some of those websites that maybe you love reading the newsletters for are ads, I think can be helpful to your budget. So if you find that every time you’re opening a newsletter you’re tempted to buy things, question whether this is really a newsletter that’s worth having. So it might not be explicitly products, but it’s cleaning advice and kids’ homeschooling products, and who knows what else. And if they’re not really upfront about the advertising, it can sometimes be even more influential.

Use an Ad Blocker

Megan 18:32
But then also, another big one is that you can use an ad blocker. So there’s a lot of ad blockers that you can download for whatever browser is your favorite. If you just type “best ad blocker for” and then your browser name, you’ll find so many options that are all really great. And they’ll shut down those ad choices boxes that appear on your favorite websites. And some of them are even able to block ads that come on in YouTube videos or ads that come on, like more embedded in things like on your Pandora or on Spotify or something like that, they’ll be able to block a lot of ads. Not all of them can block all ads. There’s some browsers that just can’t do it. Anyways, but if you just search for an ad blocker, blocking any number of the ads will improve your quality of life, because you just won’t have to see quite so many.

Mike 19:18
Yeah, that’s so great that you’re reiterating that. Of course, I know, there are these ad blockers. And I don’t have one for my browser, but I definitely need to do that. Because I feel that they’re innocuous. Like “I don’t really see the ads. I’m just focused on the content.” But just anything we can do like we were talking about email, anything you can turn off some emails coming in your inbox is going to make you feel incrementally happier. Just trust me on that. And the same is true for ads even though I’m ignoring them, if I turn them off completely, I already know like, I’m just going to breeze through my day honestly, and have a little bit more energy by the end of the day by not having to filter that through my eyes and through my brain and getting those 3000 impressions down to 2800, or whatever I could do to reduce it is going to reduce my stress, even though I don’t think about that actively. So that’s a really good tip just in everything. I constantly think about, there’s so much going on in today’s world that is grabbing your attention. And attention — you know, this is one of the four areas that I focus on in terms of your resources. You’ve got your time, your money, your energy, and your attention. And maybe a decade or two ago, you wouldn’t throw attention in there. But these days, because of all the distractions of everything beeping, flashing, going on in your life, attention is really a critical resource that you want to protect. And so that’s a really good tip around the ad blockers to just again, hone that attention and get it dialed into the the content you’re reading or what you’re there to do.

Engage with Affective Advertising, Rather than Ignore It

Megan 20:55
So after you’ve eliminated most of the ads from your experience, or as many ads as you can eliminate, then the question becomes, what do you do with the ones that you see? Before becoming a financial planner, when I was in college, I actually studied cognitive science. And so we studied a lot of the things that people who go into marketing — they’ve studied some amount of cognitive science, because it’s all about how do people think, And in ads, you’re trying to predict how can we get them to do what we want them to do?

And so the most common type of advertising these days is affective advertising . So it’s trying to make you feel something. It’s trying to inspire a feeling in you. And so the only thing that a cleaning product ad maybe is trying to get you to do is think that “women who use cleaning products are superior,” and you feel good. “If I have this cleaning product, I’ll be really amazing.” And that’s all just trying to do a slow drip. You see it a lot. You see it all over the place. Like “women who use cleaning products, they’re competent,” that’s a really common one… Cleaning product ads, I love making fun of them, because they’re so sexist. There’s always a woman who’s really competent, and a man who’s “I thought I could squeegee the floor with this.” And it just looks so sexist and horrible. But then like, they clearly think it works because they do it all the time. Anyway, so affective advertising works best when the person is not paying attention. So you talked about you’re trying to ignore the ads, you’re trying to not look at them, they know you’re trying to ignore them. That’s why they have picked this strategy. The less that you pay attention to it, the more that your brain just internalizes, like “Good thing with this. Good thing with that. This is a good thing.” Eventually you end up thinking “That is a good product. This is a good thing. Maybe I should buy it.” And in the moment when it comes up and you think “I need to buy some bleach”, what brand of bleach are you gonna buy? Are you gonna buy the brand of bleach that you’ve seen 27 times and you’ve got a good feeling about it? You might. You very well might.

So the way that you combat affective advertising is you engage with it. It’s counterintuitive, really, but you engage with the ad. So you’re like, “what are they advertising to me?” Just even asking that question. When you see an ad, “what are you trying to advertise to me? What is this?” Have that attitude, like you’re an older person sitting on the couch “What?! What are you trying to do?!” You engage with it. You’re like, “what is this? What are you trying to…” Try to guess. Make it game. “What could this be?”

When I was a kid, we used to play the game of guessing what the ads were before they told us. So we’d sit there and be like “Car ad. It’s a car ad. It must be car ad! No, it’s a drug. It’s a drug. There in the mountains. It’s a drug ad!” You try to guess. You say, “Wow, this ad is really sexist.” You mock the sexism in your cleaning product ad and you’re like, “This is ridiculous. Do they think men behave like that?” And you also make it clear what they’re trying to hide. So they’re trying to tell you that you’re more of a woman, if you use bleach. What in the world?! Now you can mock that! You can mock the theme and thesis of this ad. And so engaging with the ad on any level, going however far down that spectrum you go, will actually help make you more protected from the charms of what’s going on.

Mike 24:02
That’s so interesting, and I never really thought about that. And as you were talking, I was visualizing different ads that I would see coming my way. And the interaction and especially like guessing the ad. Some ads you don’t even know like when the ads over. Like I still don’t even know what the product was, but they’ve got a plan. They’ve got a plan. They’re not spending marketing dollars for no reason. So I love that engaging with it. And, Megan, we can do that no matter where we’re seeing that ad. Whether it’s just on your screen coming in the newsletter or watching it on TV, whatever it is. It’s just being more present with where you are. And look, that’s if you’re watching some TV and an ad comes on, you can just be present there and watch the ad rather than just checking your phone or scrolling through again. Like you said, that’s how they get you. You’re just in the background. You’re getting that feeling. You’re just hearing the voices, maybe seeing out of the corner of your eyes the screen. And that’s how they’re making you internalize their product and how you’ll feel.

Megan 24:59
Yeah, they know that one ad that you see isn’t going to make you go get it, but they’re playing the long game. That’s why everywhere you look, you’re seeing the same ad. They even sometimes know specifically for you that everywhere you look, you’re seeing the same ad. Sometimes they’re targeting you on multiple platforms, because they think you’re a really great candidate for this particular product. So yeah, having that — just even recognizing that. Noticing. Again, I get advertised bleach a lot. So that’s the one I’m always making fun of, I don’t know what it is. I think it is just I’m in the right age group; I have a kid the right age. They’re like, “You must need this. You must need to clean your house.” So they’re always showing me really sexist bleach ads, and I engage with that. I’m like, “Look at that they found me over here. Somehow, this particular place must know that I’m a woman and approximately this demographic with a child.” And so engaging with even that, like you’re seeing in a lot of places, can be helpful.

Mike 25:57
So this is great. The topic is trying to avoid advertising. And also don’t think of it that way, as much as the positive, stay in the lanes. Stay in, you know, what you’ve decided is important for your spending, and don’t get distracted. So we’re trying to avoid the distractions, and they’ll get you, you know this, at all kinds of time when you’re tired, or you know, hungry. That’s when you see the ads on the food just like “Oh I need that thing.” Don’t get distracted, stay in your lane. So we came up with a bunch of great tips today that I know Megan has lots of articles on her site around avoiding advertising and then engaging with the advertising. So it doesn’t get you. Is there anything else, Megan that you wanted to highlight in terms of avoiding the distraction of advertising?

Beware Hidden Ads Among Your Friend’s Social Media

Megan 26:44
Yeah, I have a few more things. So another one is, if you’re on social media, any social media platform, there will be two things to look out for among the posts of your friends that are actually hidden advertising. One of them is there’s a lot of people who are normally the largest voices on social media who are part of multilevel marketing companies. And so they’ll be selling books or makeup or kitchen products or supplements. There’s all sorts of different multilevel marketing things. And they’ll be really vocal, and most of their posts will be sharing about their family. And it’ll be like, “Oh, my kids are this, that and the other, and here’s my husband, but then embedded in some of the posts will be the products.” So it’ll be like, “Oh, we’re so healthy. Here’s the supplement that I took,” or “We got sick. So I took this supplement.” Or maybe if they’re doing books, it’ll be like, “We went to the library today. Here’s the library books we got. And we also read this other books that I can sell.” It’s hard to notice if you don’t know about multilevel marketing, but it’ll be in a lot of their posts. And you don’t — it’s not like you have to unfriend them. I have really great friends who are, unfortunately for my social media feed, involved in multi level marketing, but you just need to know it’s an ad. So it’s okay to enjoy hearing about their friends. But you should also engage with the fact that it’s an ad and engage with it in the similar mocking way, even potentially, “Oh, we had to put the supplement in there.”

Mike 28:15
So the same idea. So I didn’t realize that yeah, of course, the multilevel marketing has been around for a long time, and it’s still going strong. And they’re just using the newest tools. So using the social media. So be aware that some of your friends might be engaging with these companies, which is great. But for you to be aware. Again, just building that awareness.

Megan 28:36
To stay in your lane.

Mike 28:37
“Okay, yep, this could be advertising,” but dig a little deeper for a minute or two. “Oh, yeah, I see this product a couple of times or whatever. Okay, cool. Now I know no big deal.” So you’re engaging and being aware of that. Yeah, that’s great. Yeah.

Megan 28:50
And remembering to because sometimes you can fall prey to that. “Oh, my good friend found success with this. Oh, wait, I forgot. It’s that friend. Yes. Yes, I’m going to hear about the supplements when I see her posts.”

Mike 29:04
That’s right.

Megan 29:04
The second social media one that’s even harder to see is companies will actually very quietly sponsor an organic post, so something that your friend just happened to post that mentions their product. So maybe they’ve just bought a new car. And they’re like, “Oh, look at my new car. It’s amazing. I’m so excited.” And they’re being totally genuine. It’s an exciting thing. They wanted to share it. But the company who that car was made by has a filter to sponsor and boost it. So suddenly, you’ll see like your elementary school friend you have never seen on your feed will just boom, they’ll be there and you’ll only see their car ad and then the algorithm will just quietly let them go away again. And that’s normally because it’s sponsored. And so even product placement, that’s not product placement, like your friend is just talking about the cereal that they really enjoyed in the morning. And they just wanted to tell people about it and then suddenly it’s a sponsored post and Kellogg has made it come up onto your feed. And so just knowing that the algorithm can do that, it means that even just normal friend content, you need to think about as like, I wonder if this was sponsored. Just even being able to have that thought and knowing that the thing that they can do can sometimes keep you from falling prey to what they’re trying to do, which is be like, “Look, your friends are using this, even this person’s using this. Look over here. Here’s another one.” So it’s another just hidden ad.

Mike 30:31
Oh wow. As you’re describing that, — which I didn’t know was a thing, I don’t spend a lot of time on social media. — it’s just hitting me like these guys are clever. Holy smokes. That’s awesome. Wait a minute. It’s not awesome, but it is. It is so interesting.

Megan 30:43
It’s an amazing feat of technology.

Mike 30:44
You’ve mentioned a couple ideas that they’re doing here that you’re aware of. But I’m sure they’re doing more — right? — that we’ll highlight it a year from now, like in the same episode “Oh, now there’s this and this. Look it.” So the overarching point here is to be very aware as you’re reading friends posts, social media posts, whatever it is, scrolling through — that it could be any products that you are seeing. Just go in with a skeptical eye. “That’s cool. That’s really working for you. That’s great. That’s neat to know.” and then, you know, then maybe it’s good for you. You can revisit that and see if it’s going to work. But just recognizing that there’s gonna be a lot of products in your social media feed and just have a skeptical eye and engage with them as we said before, be aware of it and know that’s scripted.

Train Yourself: “Oh, you got me!”

Megan 31:29
And the last thing I wanted to share is what do you do when an advertiser has gotten you. And so at any point in the process of engaging with an ad, so let’s say, you see an ad and you’re like, “Ooh, this is really cool.” And you’ve watched the whole video. You don’t skip it. You’re just watching the whole thing. And then you’re thinking about it and you’re on their website and you’re looking at it. You’re at some stage of headed towards buying it. Whatever the moment is when you realize that it was an ad. I want you to train yourself to think, “Oh, you got me!” like, it’s April fools. It’s funny. We’re recording this on April fools. So it’s really thematic because again, these advertisers are like one big giant game of April fools. So they’re showing you this ad. And as soon as you realize that you’ve engaged with it and you are tempted to get it. Just train yourself to think, “Oh, you got me!” It gives you a nice little out. It doesn’t matter how far through the process you are. It could be in your cart and you’ve already filled out your name and you could think, “Oh, you got me!” And then it gives you an opportunity to rethink your purchase. Rethink what you’re doing. “Is this what I really want to be doing? Maybe I should put this down and step away and see if I feel the same way afterwards.” And we’re going to talk on our next one all about how to step away from your purchases. But for this episode, I want you to just think, “Oh, you got me” whenever they get you. And it’s okay that they get you. They spent a lot of money to get you. You would be embarrassed at how much money they spent to get you. In fact, you’ll feel very valuable that they spent that much money on you. They’re going to get you sometimes. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but just think, “Oh, you got me.” And then, if you have extra time to think about, think about how they got you. Why did they get you with this one? Maybe even watch the ad again, now that you know that they got you with it and be like, “What was it in this ad that got me?” Because analyzing what happened and how did they get you will make you more resilient next time they do it. You’re going to be like, “Oh, I see that right there. I see what you did.” You’re not going to get gotten.

Mike 33:34
That is great. Thanks, Megan, for reminding us of that. As you were going through that, and just no matter where you are, it’s in the cart, you’re about to check out. You’ve already filled in information. But pause for that one second to realize that they got you if it starts with an advertisement. If you trace it back, “Oh, it was some ad that got me all the way up to this point,” then just recognize that. And I was thinking to that evaluate, going back to our past episode, is it in your core? Is that product or what you’re doing? And if it is, then you’re thinking you’re being aware and present and thinking, “Oh, okay, yeah this is going to bring me a lot of joy because it’s inside of those things that I didn’t X out of my list.” If it’s somewhere on the edge, then really be aware of that. And we’ll talk next time about what else you can do when you’re at that point.

Megan 34:25
My grandmother always used to say, “Oh, it’s too bad. They had to advertise it. It must not be very good.” So that’s another technique you can do. “It must not be very good. They had to advertise it.” And there’s some truth to that. Just think about right now, Wordle a really big thing. Did Wordle get advertised to you? Did you see an ad about it? No, you didn’t. Some friend told you about it because it was so awesome. Was Wordle making money when it first came out? It wasn’t; that’s why it wasn’t advertising. Now it’s sold to the New York Times. They made big money on that. But, when you think about it, the really good things in your life that you’re like, “Actually I really enjoy this and I enjoy this time,” normally, some friends told you about it because you had a specific need. They didn’t have to advertise it to you. There’s some truth that if they have a big advertising budget, it’s probably not very good because they could have put that money into making a better product.

Mike 35:20
Fantastic. Good reminder. Thank you, Megan, for all the tips and strategies on how to avoid advertising and when you do see it, how to engage with it and be aware and present. So thanks again for all that. And we will continue on this topic of aligning your resources to bring yourself the most joy around spending and enjoying life next time. Thanks so much.

Megan 35:44
Thanks!

Photo by Elia Pellegrini on Unsplash

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Chief Operating Officer, APMA®

Megan Russell has worked with Marotta Wealth Management most of her life. She loves to find ways to make the complexities of financial planning accessible to everyone. She is the author of over 700 financial articles. Her most popular post is "The Complete Guide to Your Washing Machine" while one of her favorites is "Funding a 3-Year-Old’s Roth IRA."