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Dream hacking: How companies are planting ads into our subconscious


Companies are trying to hack into our dreams to advertise their products using a process called dream advertising. They are engineering ads into your subconscious through audio and video clips. Dream hacking or dream alteration or dream intrusion, whatever you want to call it, has become a marking gimmick. But this dream advertising has real-life consequences. Scientists say implanting dreams into people can change real-world outcomes either for good or bad.

Dream hacking: How companies are planting ads into our subconscious
Beverage company Molson Coors has triggered a debate over dream hacking after explicitly aiming to place images of Coors beer, along with positive imagery (of refreshing alpine rivers, for instance), into people’s minds a night before Super Bowl LV earlier this year.
The beverage company admitted it tried to manipulate people’s dreams so they could collectively see visions of beer. The company even got pop star Zayn Malik to sleep on Instagram Live while having an incubated Coors beer dream to reach out to more people.
The company said, “It’s no surprise the stress of the pandemic has caused many of us to have difficulties sleeping and, in turn, experience weird, bizarre dreams called ‘quarandreams.’ Typically, we can’t control what we dream about, but what if we could? Coors Light and Coors Seltzer want to ensure you’ll have a refreshing dream using the science of guiding dreams.”
This wasn’t the first time a company tried hacking into dreams to advertise its products. Earlier, Burger King and Microsoft’s Xbox have made similar attempts.
Concerned over this trend, researchers have said this is not just a marketing gimmick, but this trend can have real-life consequences as companies can use such a technique to convince a person to take non-healthy products and even drugs.
Scientists decried the concept of dream advertising—process companies use to engineer ads into your subconscious through audio and video clips—in an open letter published on the op-ed website DXE. They said it is better to have a naturally occurring stress dream than a company planting an advertisement in someone’s head.

How is dream hacking done?
While the concept may remind you of high-tech sleep labs like the ones shown in the Hollywood blockbuster ‘Inception,’ dream incubation is an ancient trick. There are records that Egyptians, over 4,000 years ago, people lay in sacred beds to receive divine dreams.
Similarly, ailing people were made to sleep in oracular temples in Greece to heal them. Even today, dream incubation is used in healing, therapeutic and spiritual practices such as “Yoga Nidra” or “Mohave Shamanism.”
Today, marketers are working with scientists to achieve “targeted dream implantation.” They encourage people to watch some video clip right before hitting the bed and listen to soundscapes during sleep so that when people wake up, they have a subconscious urge to use the product or service.

Repercussions of dream hacking
A recent study, New York’s 2021 Future of Marketing by The American Marketing Association, has revealed 77 percent of marketers in the United States aim to deploy dream-tech for advertising in the next three years. The reason – humans are highly susceptible to thoughts or ideas introduced while in sleep.
Scientists say dream hacking is very intrusive. They add that implanting dreams into people can change real-world outcomes either for good or bad. Besides, once marketers fully understand the trick to hack into dreams, they wouldn’t even need sleep scientists to develop such advertising campaigns without any expert supervision.
However, there is an upside too. Over the past decade, several studies have proved that dream alteration or dream incubation can help a person become more creative, treat psychiatric conditions such as depression and PTSD, and alleviate addiction.
Nonetheless, the implications of the for-profit use of dreams for product placement can be damning. Also, with advancing technology, it has become easier to gauge the sleep stage of a person and plant an idea in the form of a dream. So, while your sleep may be safe at present, there is a threat that advertisements won’t leave you alone there as well in the future.

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