The marketing of fear

WHEN a magazine ad promotes a gasmask or handgun, the strands of fear woven through the copy hardly come as a surprise. But what about humdrum products like cell phones and sunglasses, non-fat margarine and nolick mailers? Do ads for products like these ever amount to a marketing of fear?

A recent cell phone ad sketched a foreboding scene: a lone woman in a stalled car on an isolated road at dusk. Then, just as the consumer starts panicking—voila! Cell phone to the rescue (assuming that isolated roadway isn't outside the calling area).

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