Have you ever awoken from a dream with a new idea? Most people have a hard time remembering it later, smart people write it down immediately, and some scientists are wondering if the idea came from your subconscious or was placed there by advertisers hoping to turn your brain into a billboard. The technique is called “targeted dream incubation” and the Molson Coors Beverage Company actually conducted an experiment this year using it as a way to get people to dream about their beer. Did you wake up needing to go to the bathroom because of what you drank before bed … or from what you watched?
“As sleep and dream researchers, we are deeply concerned about marketing plans aimed at generating profits at the cost of interfering with our natural nocturnal memory processing. Brain science helped design several addictive technologies, from cell phones to social media, that now shape much of our waking lives; we do not want to see the same happen to our sleep. We believe that proactive action and new protective policies are urgently needed to keep advertisers from manipulating one of the last refuges of our already beleaguered conscious and unconscious minds: Our dreams.”
Adam Haar, a cognitive scientist and Ph.D. student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, co-authored a letter on the op-ed website EOS that was signed by 40 scientists from around the world who are concerned about corporations taking dream incubation, a technique that has been around from thousands of years, out of the laboratories and therapeutic environments and into the marketplace via advertising. Haar made news last year with his invention of the Dormio, a glove-based sleep-tracking device that works in the hypnagogia state – the earliest sleep stage which occurs prior to REM – and can be used to help influence dreams to make a person more creative. While Haar saw this as a physical tool that could aid lucid dreaming, he didn’t foresee what came next.
“Molson Coors recently announced a new kind of advertising campaign. Timed for the days before Super Bowl Sunday, it was designed to infiltrate our dreams. They planned to use “targeted dream incubation” (TDI) to alter the dreams of the nearly 100 million Super Bowl viewers the night before the game—specifically, to have them dream about Coors beer in a clean, refreshing, mountain environment—and presumably then drink their beer while watching the Super Bowl.”
“With this campaign, Coors is proudly pioneering a new form of intrusive marketing. “Targeted Dream Incubation (TDI) is a never-before-seen form of advertising,” says Marcelo Pascoa, Vice President of Marketing at Molson Coors.””
That commercial never ran, but Deirdre Barrett, a dream researcher and author, told Science magazine she consulted with Molson Coors and the company conducted a limited test – which she said was not a real “experiment” – using 18 people who watched a video showing waterfalls, Coors logos and Coors beer right before falling asleep. Five participants reportedly had Coors dreams, but the results were never officially published. That is certainly not enough to scrap the millions the company spends on conventional ads and switch to targeted dream commercials. However, Barrett agrees on her blog that passive, unconscious advertising with or without permission is unethical. Dennis Hirsch, a professor of law and privacy expert at The Ohio State University, thinks the U.S. Federal Trade Commission Act, which prohibits against deceptive advertising “in any medium,” already applies to indream advertising. Since when did laws stop companies from finding ways to sell more of their products? The op-ed claims Xbox, Playstation and Burger King have already tested the use of targeted dream advertising.
Are you ready for commercials in your dreams? Or is it too late?
I’ve just closed my eyes again
Climbed aboard the dream weaver train
Driver take away my worries of today
And leave tomorrow behind
‘Dream Weaver‘ by Gary Wright