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Companies are about to start injecting ads directly into our dreams

A woman sleeping comfortably in bed

It seems like advertisements are everywhere, and soon they could even be in your dreams.

According to a new essay published by a trio of researchers from MIT, Harvard, and the University of Montreal, advertisers are working on ways to hack into our dreams. A recent survey also notes that 77 percent of marketers plan to put something called dreamtech advertisements to use within the next three years.

The future could bring dream advertisements

A woman sleeping comfortably in her bed
A woman sleeping comfortably in her bed. Image source: Jacob Lund/Adobe

If this all sounds very science fiction, then you wouldn’t be completely wrong. Based on the essay, companies like Molson Coors have been working on “dream incubation”, a term first coined in a 2020 paper. The trio notes that this means that advertisers are keeping a close eye on academic work towards the subject.

Molson Coors is already pushing towards ways to put this idea to work, too. Earlier this year, the company created an ad campaign that promised free beer in exchange for people’s participation. The test for “dream incubation” involved a video of dancing beer cans, talking fish, and it included pop star Zayn Malik, all to drive up interest in the product.

The dilemma of hacking dreams

Illuminated Advertisements On Modern Buildings In CityImage source: andreas hennings/EyeEm/Adobe

Two of the three essay authors previously worked on a device from MIT that was designed to communicate with sleeping subjects. That device was designed to let people fully take control of their dreams. Others have worked towards using it to treat medical issues, like PTSD.

The tech has a lot of practical uses, but the researchers are worried that tech companies could use it to make watches, wearables, and other tech to track sleep. While not inherently bad, a lot of tech companies make money selling information to the highest bidder. Furthermore, they could start using the tech to advertise their products in your dreams.

Of course, one of the biggest concerns is you might not even remember it. In the essay, the authors reference a study where researchers mixed bad smells with cigarette smoke while daily smokers were asleep. The study found that doing so reduced the person’s smoking habit the next day. The scary part, though, is that person didn’t remember smelling anything while they were asleep.

The three authors wrote an open letter about advertisers hacking dreams earlier this year. The letter garnered support from 40 other scientists, all of whom signed the document. The researchers also said that the Federal Trade Commission should step in and add regulation for subliminal messaging in dreams.

If research into dream hacking does continue, the scientists worry that we could find ourselves on a slippery slope.

“Where we slide to, and at what speed, depends on what actions we choose to take in order to protect our dreams,” they wrote.




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