Posts Tagged ‘Advertising’

How advertisers make food look appetizing

December 19, 2018

Your life on the Internet is an open book

March 28, 2017

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How Google Tracks You—And What You Can Do About It by Jeff Desjardins for Visual Capitalist.

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The Century of the Self by Adam Curtis

April 2, 2015

Update 9/16/2016.  Sorry if the older links don’t work.  Try thisOr thisOr this.

Some years ago I posted videos of “The Century of the Self,” the great four-part documentary by Adam Curtis about “how those in power have used Freud’s theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy.”

The videos were taken down from the Internet, but Jason Kottke found new iterations and linked to them on kottke.org.  Here they are.  If you haven’t seen them before, I highly recommend watching them.  Each one is a little less than an hour long.

Part One, Happiness Machines, is about how Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, created the profession of public relations in the 1920s and taught American advertisers how to link products with consumers’ unconscious desires, and how these ideas influenced politics in the 1930s.

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Chomsky on advertising and anarchism

June 26, 2013

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Professor Noam Chomsky gave an interesting interview to Modern Success magazine about a month ago.  Here’s his observation about advertising.

… Commercial advertising is fundamentally an effort to undermine markets.  We should recognize that. If you’ve taken an economics course, you know that markets are supposed to be based on informed consumers making rational choices.  You take a look at the first ad you see on television and ask yourself — Is that it’s purpose?  No it’s not. It’s to create uninformed consumers making irrational choices.

And these same institutions run political campaigns.  It’s pretty much the same: you have to undermine democracy by trying to get uninformed people to make irrational choices.  And so this is only one aspect of the PR industry. 

Here’s his definition of anarchism.

… Anarchism is, in my view, basically a kind of tendency in human thought which shows up in different forms in different circumstances, and has some leading characteristics.  Primarily it is a tendency that is suspicious and skeptical of domination, authority, and hierarchy.  It seeks structures of hierarchy and domination in human life over the whole range, extending from, say, patriarchal families to, say, imperial systems, and it asks whether those systems are justified.  It assumes that the burden of proof for anyone in a position of power and authority lies on them.  Their authority is not self-justifying.  They have to give a reason for it, a justification. 

And if they can’t justify that authority and power and control, which is the usual case, then the authority ought to be dismantled and replaced by something more free and just. And, as I understand it, anarchy is just that tendency. It takes different forms at different times.

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Like selling refrigerators to Eskimos

July 13, 2011

If the supreme art of salesmanship would be to sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo, the supreme art of advertising is in persuading people who have unlimited access to tap water to buy bottled water.

Now it is true that not all water is alike.  When I was a boy, I could tell the difference between “country water,” drawn from the well on my grandfather’s farm, and “city water,” the chlorinated water we drew from the tap at home.  I can tell—or think I can tell—the difference between the sweet filtered Hemlock Lake water that comes out of my tap in Rochester, and the water I drink when I’m traveling.

Bruce Sterling, in his science-fiction novel Holy Fire, imagined that, just as today there are wine snobs who detect minute differences in wines and their vintages, so in the future there will be water snobs.

Daizaburo said, “…We’re taking waters.  Would you like a water?”

“Antarctic glacier water,” offered the [robot] crab.  “A deep core from Pleistocene deposits.  Entirely unpolluted, undisturbed since the dawn of humanity.  Profoundly pure. …

“We have lunar water,” said the crab.  “Very interesting isotopic properties.”

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A century of psychology and social control

May 18, 2011

Links updated 9/17/2016:  Click on this if the links don’t work.

Recently I came across this four-part BBC series on how the corporate and governmental elites use the ideas of Sigmund Freud to manipulate and control the public.  It is full of fascinating facts I never knew.

Freud taught that human beings are at the mercy of powerful desires and emotions arising out of the subconscious mind.  The theme of this series is how corporations and governments in the 20th century sought to bypass critical thinking and manipulate the public by tapping into these desires and emotions.

The first program in the series is above.  It describes the early career of Sigmund Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays, founder of the profession of public relations.  Born in 1891, Bernays was brought to the United States as a boy, and he served during World War One in the Wilson administration disseminating war propaganda.

During the 1920s, Bernays pioneered the use of advertising based not on the objective merits of a product, but on the consumer’s desires and anxieties.  He broke the taboo against women smoking cigarettes in public, for example, by making cigarette smoking a symbol of women’s liberation.

Bernays believed that the average human being was too stupid to be an intelligent decision-maker in a democracy.  If American business could find out what people wanted on a deep level and provide it, then traditional democracy would be unnecessary, he thought; if people could express themselves through focus groups, traditional political participation would be unnecessary.

Producer Adam Curtis follows Bernays into the 1930s, when he advised the National Association of Manufacturers on its propaganda offensive against the New Deal, and helped organize the 1939 World’s Fair, a tribute to the ability of the free enterprise system to satisfy the public’s needs and wants.  He touches on now Nazi propagandist  Joseph Goebbels openly rejected rational argument, and appealed to deep emotions and instincts.  It would have been interesting to compare Nazi and Soviet propaganda, inasmuch as both ideologies rejected the ideas of Sigmund Freud, but you can’t get everything into a one-hour program.

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How advertising creates intangible value

February 19, 2011

In this shrewd and witty talk, British advertising man Rory Sutherland argued that advertising performs a valuable service in influencing people to pay top dollar for products without any particular value that can be measured objectively.

He said that if intangible value increases human happiness, it is just as real as so-called objective value. He went on to say that it is better to generate intangible value through advertising than to try to increase objective value through human labor and consumption of natural resources.

Sutherland presented interesting facts, interesting stories and interesting ideas.  But if I had been present for his talk, I would have asked:  Why do we need advertising agencies to give things intangible value?  Why can’t we add intangible value for ourselves through our own creativity and imagination?

Click on TED for more videos like this.

Hat tip to Ezra Klein.