Like any good con, advertising relies on sleight of hand. There’s an art to convincing an increasingly ad-weary and debt-saddled American public that it should spend money on products it neither needs nor can afford, and as it turns out, that art is mostly built on fear. If you cannot remember the last time you were essentially terrified into buying something, that’s only because savvy advertisers have gotten incredibly good at their jobs. Evidence of fear’s efficacy in advertising is everywhere, from off-road vehicles that never leave the streets of the Upper East Side to anti-perspirants that do nothing to help wearers find their soulmates. Studies confirm that the “interest [in] and persuasiveness of” ads is increased by fear, which explains why “fear appeals are one of the most frequently used motivators” for getting people to respond to marketing of every sort. From snake oil salesmen to digital marketers, advertisers have long preyed on our insecurities to sell us products that don’t so much solve our problems as they do allay our darkest fears.