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Mind Manipulation in Modern Day Advertising…

28 April 2011 No Comment

african american couple watching tv playing around

Here’s a short excerpt from an old term paper I did for back in the day…it was for an advertising class I took just as I was starting to get conscious, so for the entire semester, something just didn’t feel right about doing things specifically to trigger psychological points in someone so that they would buy from you…

I felt awkward in class the entire time, and the more research I did, the more validated I felt about feeling awkward. So when I wrote the final paper, I did my best to incorporate my own personal ideas without attacking the whole advertising field outright (not wanting to flunk, obviously).

Check this out (dope book reference by the way), it was called “The History and Evolution of Modern Day Advertising”:

In American Advertising…

(The book) “A Brief History,” it is said that since the 1920’s, advertising expenditures in America has multiplied over EIGHTY TIMES to become what we see around us today…

Primarily, the author attributes this colossal shift to technological advances (it’s the only rational provided), but it seems that another, more detailed analysis is worthy of our discussion.

The Hidden Persuaders by Vance PackardOne man to do just that – and be extremely successful while doing it- is Vance Packard. In 1957, Packard released his book The Hidden Persuaders, a probing investigation into the new methods being used in advertising during the “consumer revolution.”

The book went on to become a bestseller for 16 weeks straight, and a customer review at amazon.com reads:

“Advertising was nothing new, but the psychological intricacy and sophistication in it was ratcheted up significantly. Using Freud, Jung, and whatever other foundation proved workable, social scientists and psychoanalysts honed their skills to develop an ever-growing repertoire of tricks that would induce us all to spend and consume at ever-higher levels.”

Why This All Came About

According to Packard, the advances in advertising were due not to technological advancements, but to the use of advanced psychology on the masses. By using insights gleaned from psychiatry and the social sciences, certain “persuaders” were able to channel the unthinking habits of the people: our purchasing decisions through our subconscious thought processes.

In their desperate need to solve the problem of economic surplus (a huge over supply of goods), professional advertisers found “…more effective ways to sell us their wares — whether products, ideas, attitudes, candidates, goals, or states of mind.”

business men in board room

Some of these “hidden persuaders” include mid-20th century industry leaders such as David Ogilvy (I know right, lol), Louis Cheskin, and Ernest Dichter. Although the entire idea seems to be on the verge of conspiracy theory, Packard’s work seems to be very well researched, and his knowledge of the psychological science involved is definitely evident. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, a thorough research of the book was not possible.

In any case, advertising today has definitely come a long way, not only in the sheer increase (which created the term mass advertising), but in the methods employed themselves: advertising has transformed from the use of rational arguments (i.e: this product will do this or that), into the use of symbolic messages, cartoon images, and slogans all meant to influence deeper aspects of the human mind…”

Why the Book is a Great Read

old school microwave advertisementI did do a “thorough research” of the book during my own personal time though – it’s really a dope read, because he points out specific examples and then relates them to a natural, innate psychological drive.

For instance, when microwaves and similar home appliances like that first starting being sold to middle-class America, rather then tell housewives,

“This is a microwave, and it works by heating up your food for you, much faster. It has such and such features…” and so on,

Commercials started saying,

“Looking to be a best mother you can be??? Well, you KNOW the importance of spending quality time with your children, and here’s brand new tool to help you do just that…”

Ill, right? What mother doesn’t want to be the best mother she can? It’s instinctual…

The real question is, “What the heck does that have to do with a microwave???” It’s a false association that appeals to a deeper part of who you are.

ogilvy on advertisingEven though the book is type old, it applies now more then ever before. This book was the gem that opened my mind to questioning the values my peer group has, where those values come from, and whether or not they’re really “valuable” at all.

The subtitle to the updated version reads: “the classic examination of how the media manipulates what you think, what you feel, AND what you spend!!!”

>> You can check out The Hidden Persuaders here,

>> That first article I mentioned (American Advertising: A Brief History) by clicking here, and

>> A dope video I put together with more on free thinking here

“Liberty, according to my metaphysics, is an INTELLECTUAL QUALITY, an attribute that belongs neither to fate nor chance…” ~ John Adams


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