Vance Packard (1914-96)
American writer (pictured right) best known for his critique of the advertising industry (The Hidden Persuaders
– see below)
The Hidden Persuaders
Advertisers are “depth manipulators”, because they sell products and ideas (the
“engineered yes”) by:
1. Manipulating people’s subconscious
2. Satisfying people's
(like self-worth and a good self-image).
We must resist these “hidden persuaders” and assert our right to be free human beings with
Other moral and environmental dangers from advertising
1. Psychological obsolescence
Persuading us to buy things we don’t need by creating dissatisfaction with what we
2. Political manipulation
The true character of politicians is masked by image builders (in which marketing replaces the
“What is the morality of subordinating truth to cheerfulness in keeping the citizen posted on the state of his
nation?”, Packard asks.
3. The packaged soul (or human engineering)
Where people are programmed to buy products that satisfy their souls, so removing their spiritual
freedom to make their own moral choices.
Key quotes on advertising and
The most serious offence many of the depth manipulators commit...is that they try to invade the privacy of our
We still have the choice, and we cannot be too seriously manipulated if we know what is going on.
The idea that you can merchandise candidates for high office like breakfast cereal...is the ultimate
indignity to the democratic process (quoting Adlai Stevenson, the 1950’s American presidential candidate).
The Status Seekers
Prosperity doesn’t produce a classless society.
People, however rich, are:
- continually strive to improve their social status.
But these “status seekers” are unhappy, because they are psychologically
and spiritually dissatisfied (suffering from low self-esteem and anxiety).
The socially mobile American Dream is a myth for many Americans, although they refuse to
It is becoming increasingly difficult to start at the bottom and reach the top.
So education must be improved to maximize everyone’s opportunities and potential, whatever
their income or social class.
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We should all be happier, and live more stimulating lives, if...we judged people not by the symbols they display
and the labels they wear but rather by their individual worth.
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America, under its gloss of prosperity, is undergoing a significant hardening of the arteries of its social