When brewing giant Coors launched a new advertising campaign earlier this year, the format came as a surprise to many. The company was planning to infiltrate people’s dreams to get them to buy, and presumably drink, Coors beer.
Coors encouraged people to watch a short online video before bed, then play an eight-hour “soundscape” through the night. If successful, this “targeted dream incubation” would trigger “refreshing dreams” of Coors, according to the company.
It’s unclear how many people took part in the dream manipulation – the top Google search result for “Coors dreams” is currently the song Dreams, performed by the Irish pop-rock band the Corrs – but experts warn that the Coors campaign is not just a gimmick, and may have opened a door to a troubling future.
“They’re trying to push an addictive drug on people who are naive to what’s being done to them. I don’t know if it can get much worse than that,” Bob Stickgold, a cognitive neuroscientist and professor of psychiatry at Harvard medical school, said of Coors’ efforts, which he believed could potentially be replicated by other companies.
“Anything you could imagine an advertising campaign for, at all, could arguably be enhanced by weaponizing sleep,” Stickgold said.
Stickgold was one of the co-authors of a recent open letter which sounded the alarm over companies using targeted dream incubation in June. The letter was signed by 35 sleep and dream researchers from around the world.