31 October 2011

TV talk about prices: "£499" = a lot, "4-9-9" = a little

Not long after starting this blog, I had a slight moan about the way in which more and more TV advertisements were referring to prices in a way that bears little or no relationship to the way we talk about prices in everyday conversation (for more on which HERE):

"Commercials are telling us that an armchair priced at two hundred and ninety nine pounds costs 'two-nine-nine' and that a three-piece suite priced at four hundred and ninety nine pounds can be ours for 'four-nine-nine'. "

At the time, I suggested that there were two reasons why they were doing it:

"One is that it avoids having to mention high-sounding numbers like 'ninety' or 'a hundred'. The other is that these shorthand digital options save on costly air time: there are only three syllables in 'four-nine-nine' compared with eight syllables in 'four hundred and ninety nine pounds', which takes more than twice as long to say."

Three years later, this peculiar way of talking about prices is not only still on our screens, but the first of these reasons is arguably becoming rather more explicit. For example, in the above ad from Currys and PC World, we're told that we get "four hundred pounds off" for a first product that only costs "four-nine-nine", while the next one is "only five-nine-nine" or "four hundred pounds off".

In other words, the full (normal conversational) form is used to emphasise what a lot you "get off", whereas the digital (odd-sounding form) is used to emphasise how little the actual price is.

I can see how the ad agencies have managed to persuade their clients of the logic behind this bizarre usage, but very much doubt whether they have much in the way of hard evidence that it has the desired impact on TV viewers (for more on which, see HERE).

1 comment:

Sui Juris said...

I don't know if you've seen some of the work on the psychology of talking about money. Here are two interesting articles from Neuromarketing:

theory here: http://www.neurosciencemarketing.com/blog/articles/money-priming.htm

and parallel example to yours, this time drawn from restaurants, here: http://www.neurosciencemarketing.com/blog/articles/pricing-lessons-from-restaurants.htm