Companies are planning to advertise in your dreams — and no, this ain’t The Onion

Published June 13, 2021

Your smart­phone is always lis­ten­ing, even when you’re not using it. So researchers from com­pa­nies like Burger King, Coors, and Xbox had an idea: What if your phone could lis­ten for when you fell asleep — maybe by track­ing your smart­watch data, or just lis­ten­ing for snor­ing. And then, what if it qui­et­ly played ads designed to influ­ence your bleepin’ dreams?

Not a joke. In fact, the pos­si­bil­i­ty is seri­ous enough that a group of sleep researchers signed an op-ed call­ing for some kind of reg­u­la­tion before it gets out of hand. (And we’re not just talk­ing about, say, alco­holics or vegetarians.)

[Targeted dream incu­ba­tion] adver­tis­ing is not some fun gim­mick, but a slip­pery slope with real con­se­quences. Planting dreams in people’s minds for the pur­pose of sell­ing prod­ucts, not to men­tion addic­tive sub­stances, rais­es impor­tant eth­i­cal ques­tions. The moral line divid­ing com­pa­nies sell­ing relax­ing rain sound­tracks to help peo­ple sleep from those embed­ding tar­get­ed dreams to influ­ence con­sumer behav­ior is admit­ted­ly unclear at the moment.

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