Exposure to an imagery-evoking ad can increase the likelihood that consumer mistakenly believes that s/he has experience with the advertised product when in fact s/he does not. Moreover such a false belief produces attitudes that are as strong as attitudes based on true beliefs based on previous product experience, an effect that we label the false experience effect.
Advertising has always sought to “sell the sizzle, not the steak” and has drizzled ads for everything from ice cream to toilet paper with purple prose evoking nothing short of an orgiastic product experience. So from that standpoint, the study says nothing new. Advertising has always been an appeal to a fantasy, and this study seems to suggest that if the ad is created just right, that fantasy can be in the form of a desire to return to a previous wonderful experience (even if the previous experience never actually happened.)
Let’s face it, if Baudrillard was right and our postmodern existence is little more than a simulation, it should not surprise us that our memories have become re-writable and random access.
But this finding suggests something a bit more insidious. If you can fool people into thinking they once experienced something that they never did with just an elaborate text description, imagine what you can do with a whole newspaper and 24-7 cable news.