On a recent podcast episode of Freakonomics, Stephen Dubner discussed the Prudential TV ads featuring Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert because of how these ads feel more like PSAs – teaching audiences about the complex dilemmas of prospecting – in a simple way.

Prospecting is a fancy way of saying prediction. Whenever we make a large decision that has timely impact, we try to prospect which option is optimal for us, both physically and emotionally. Because of this, Gilbert is well-known as an expert on happiness, as prospecting and happiness are largely one in the same (being optimal emotionally is being happy). What Gilbert and many other researchers have found is that we are really…REALLY bad at prospecting.

In the commercials, Gilbert uses data visualization techniques to illustrate how far off we are when trying to prospect long-term decisions. The ads concisely demonstrate how difficult it is to gauge a decision’s effects 20, 30, or 40 years from now, like retirement savings or life insurance.

In the arts, prospecting is not as arduous as financial planning, but it is definitely more difficult than deciding on most consumer product goods. This is because the arts is a product that is not tangible, is finite, is subjectively enjoyed, and is arguably costly in both money and time.

Marketing is a unique tool in aiding prospecting. When done well, marketing creates a strong understanding of and a strong sentiment for a brand or product. As these Prudential commercials demonstrate, the best way to create this understanding and sentiment is to educate through content.

Especially with complex products, content provides the most flexibility to communicate a message. For example, Prudential teaches about prospecting via their YouTube channel with videos varying in length from 1 minute to 5 minutes long or more. Through their various content series, they have thoughtfully addressed several different aspects of retirement planning and life insurance.

People want to make the right decision that will make them happy – they just need the right tools to help and content like these commercials are wonderful tools. The arts are a ripe industry for content creation with a goal of better education and therefore better prospecting. With better prospecting come happier consumers … and fuller venues. To hear the entire podcast, click here.