Why You Shouldn't Mess with a Social Psychologist

Thursday, April 28, 2011 | 4 Comment(s)

We study what people do and why they do them.

Sometimes, however, the "why" is not as important as the what.

For example.  A woman at a Milwaukee baseball game listed her actual cell number on a sign asking the Brewer's amazing (and Jewish!!!) left fielder to marry her.  Predictable to everyone but this woman, a whole crap-load of people called the number.  She shut her phone off.  Hilariously, the player, Ryan Braun, heard about this whole ordeal and called the number only to find it going to voicemail.  Upon hearing this, the woman turned her phone back on . . . commencing a whole crap-load more phone calls.

The moral of this little story is that when given a phone number in a public forum, people call it.  The show How I Met Your Mother employed this knowledge when they had Barney (aka neil patrick harris) stand up in an add at the Superbowl with "his phone number" listed on it.  Commence a crap-load of phone calls.  This same premise also works when phone numbers are said in movies, which is why they came up with the 555 prefix for fake numbers (e.g. 413-555-6767). 

Considering the amount of subtle marketing going on in TV shows now (Jeopardy has sponsored categories -- Top Chef is essentially Top Product placement --  Even sitcoms have pretty gratuitous product placement [come ON 30 rock, you're better than that.]), i have to think that this whole 555 business is a missed opportunity. 

People hate cold calls.  Oh how people hate them.  People hate them enough to go online and enter their phone number on a "do not call list" (how easily could that be used as a way to get people's numbers btw?).  I think some people leave themselves off "do not call" lists because they enjoy the release of telling people who cold call them off when they call during dinner (i'm looking at you dad).  But, generally speaking, i've never heard anyone say, "this guy called from Comcast last night to ask me if i wanted to expand my existing coverage, and we had the. best. time. ever!"  Doesn't happen.  So, if people don't like being called . . . and yet . . . when given any public phone number they will call it themselves . . .

You see what i'm getting at here.  If you make those 555 numbers into marketing firm numbers, when people call them, thinking they are being all subversive and cool, they end up talking to a person on the other end who answers, "thank you for choosing to take our brief 5 minute phone survey about product X."  Or, better yet, "thank you for volunteering to answer these few polling questions about your voting preferences."  Pew (polling service) and Gallup should be all over this shit.  You could even insert different phone numbers in the tv shows in different viewing regions, so as to categorize the responses geographically.  This is gold people.  It's like i'm giving away free money. 

i think, in a parallel multiverse there is a different version of me who has no inner need to do good and has made a crap-load (see how i'm tying the language together--that's called good writing :) of money off of these horrible life-worsening yet eminently profitable ideas.  I bet that version of me wears a lot of fitted suits and enjoys the feel of a tie around his neck. Fuck that me.  I hate that guy.


  1. You are forgetting the oh-so-famous (and relevant), Jenny can I get your number? 867-5309!

  2. titi -
    there is a new movie coming out by the dude who made the movie about mcdonald's food where the whole movie is an advertisement for the movie. complete with rampant product placement, the product being the movie itself, that we're watching.

  3. @Lauri you would have to pay a hefty surcharge for that number. #catchychorussurcharge

    @broski spurlock. can't wait to see it. so meta. so very meta.

  4. If you believe in a multiverse, then there must be version of you making crap loads of money from this idea. Although, if you believe in a multiverse, then you have to believe that it is more likely that both you and the version of you making money and wearing fitted suits ..... by the way, who wears a suit that isn't fitted... pleebs.... anyway, in a multiverse you two are more likely a computer simulation.

    Also, don't you think the Pew polling service should hire this guy as their spokesperson: