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The Hidden Persuaders

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  906 ratings  ·  71 reviews
"One of the best books around for demystifying the deliberately mysterious arts of advertising."--Salon

"Fascinating, entertaining and thought-stimulating."--The New York Times Book Review

"A brisk, authoritative and frightening report on how manufacturers, fundraisers and politicians are attempting to turn the American mind into a kind of catatonic dough that will buy, give
Paperback, 240 pages
Published July 1st 2007 by Pocket Books (first published April 1st 1957)
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3.88  · 
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 ·  906 ratings  ·  71 reviews

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Oct 08, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Consumers
Recommended to Alan by: CGW
This slim volume, already more than half a century old, remains readable and relevant today, despite largely preaching to the converted about a war that's already been lost.

Its thesis is simple: sometime before the midpoint of the 20th Century, American advertisers began appropriating techniques from the burgeoning fields of psychology and sociology to manipulate us as consumers of goods and services, religions and politics, to a great extent without our knowledge or consent. The effects of such
I remember after reading this around 1969 I scruntinized every print ad trying to decipher how it 'worked'. Especially the alcohol ads, which Vance insisted had death heads images secreted in the photos. I never found them.
In high school journalism class we learned about advertising strategies. I was both fascinated and appalled by advertising. Ten years later I was a promotion copywriter and I Gee whiz, trying to make some boring book marketable to the common reader! Noth
Jul 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
An important book in the history of advertising. Dated, yes, but not really if you start digging into what's going on now with "MR" as it was called then. The book was a massive public hit, and changed america's view of advertising forever. It was influential in bringing some laws and regulations to things such as advertising to children, etc. That spotlight, however, caused many of the researchers to go deeper underground and stay more hidden. The techniques are dated, the science has modernize ...more
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it

For anyone born in the mid-twentieth century, The Hidden Persuaders is an intriguing look at the beginnings of advertising and marketing as it influenced our wants and needs, our purchasing decisions, our political views and even (possibly a stretch) led to our current economic situation. I read it as research for my memoir. I was 10 years old when it came out and I remember my dad talking about the book.

Some people call Vance Packard the first Malcolm Gladwell. I have not read Gladwell because
This 1957 book is about the growing field of manipulating people from buying products to politicians.

It was no doubt referenced in creating the show Mad Men, and is still frighteningly applicable today. I've always wondered why marketing and advertising techniques weren't taught in high school to make people aware of the subtle, or not so subtle, ways of separating people from their money or appealing to tribal groupthink.

Sure, changing a packaging color because it has positive connotations seem
Todd Martin
Jul 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
The Hidden Persuaders was first published in 1957 and is one of the first popular books to describe the psychological techniques advertisers and marketers use to sell their wares. While these techniques have only become more sophisticated in the half century since the book was written, the themes are still highly relevant.

Written in a lively and readable style, the book is both informative and highly entertaining. With quotes from ad-men like:

“You have to have a carton that attracts and hypnotiz
Christopher Miller
Jun 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Have you ever wondered how marketing companies come up with their advertising campaigns? As consumers, we are a mess of contradictions; Motivational Research sorted us out years ago.

According to Wikipedia, Vance Packard "was born in Granville Summit, Pennsylvania, to Philip J. Packard and Mabel Case Packard. Between 1920-32 he attended local public schools in State College, Pennsylvania, where his father managed a dairy farm owned by the Pennsylvania State College (later Penn State University).
Clifford Stevens
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Hidden Persuaders is not a new book but it is definitely a classic. I do not know if the book has been updated to include changes in recent decades (e.g. e-commerce and digital advertising), its basic premise of how consumers are manipulated, the various methods companies use to get their message across and get us to buy what they want, and the psychological underpinnings are still valid today. In any case, an important work which throws light on what we as people are subject to, and despite ...more
May 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fascinating book about the nascent Mad Men era, when advertisers and marketers teamed with social scientists to tap into the consumer psyche. Packard gives lots of anecdotes but doesn't really give away his own thoughts about the morality of the persuasive tactics and maneuvers on which he reports until late in the book, when he asks, "But when you are manipulating, where do you stop? Who is to fix the point at which manipulative attempts become socially undesirable?"

Of course a lot has changed
Simon Dobson
Feb 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: bonanza
The classic exposé of advertising. In many ways this book remains fresh, perhaps because of the popularity of Mad Men in bringing 50's advertising culture back to prominence. In others, it hasn't aged well and is clearly a product of its time. If you can get back the casual sexism and references to tobacco's "cancer scare", however, it's still a great read.

I found it impossible to read this book without thinking of Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, another explorati
While outdated in many respects, the basic ideas of this book remain valid, and are still frighteningly relevant. It stresses the idea that corporations and even political parties exploit the fact that consumer buying habits and political choices are primarily ruled by emotion rather than reason. This is a report of the mid-twentieth century efforts of advertising agencies and their corporate clients to manipulate the public. Particularly disturbing is the discussion of the work of Dr. Ernest Di ...more
Daniel Proctor
Dec 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gloriously outdated yet poignantly prescient and relevant. A wonderful insight into the inner workings of the mind and how far marketers will go to influence decisions.

This was the book that tutors told me was vital during my media degree and no doubt fifteen years later it is still regarded as high on the list of 'must reads'.

The epilogue, written in the eighties is possibly more outdated than the rest of the book. A great shame that Packard died in the early nineties and wasn't around to witne
Irma Walter
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Intriguing read, because at the time, consumer manipulation was only just beginning. There is a glimpse into a world before mass persuasion was the norm.
I slightly wonder at the conclusion though... just letting people know that they're being manipulated was not going to arm them against the onslaught of P.R. as we now know.
The methods at the time had one big flaw.... one section of the population never made it into the data bases: the ones who didn't like divulging information. Nowadays the d
Michael Miller
Packard's classic look at the methods of psychological manipulation companies used (and still use) to sell products, ideas, and candidates. In retrospect, some of them appear silly and naive, but most were very successful. It's a good reminder to us all that we are constantly bombarded with manipulative marketing messages, and we should all be wary of being overconfident that we are not duped by them. Disappointingly, this edition is full of typographical errors.
Nick Spacek
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
surprisingly relevant, even sixty years later. there's a lot to learn from packard's book, be it the ways in which packaging is developed, or the various emotions to which advertisers appeal. there's quite a bit of sexist opinion in here, which can readily be discarded, but the buying patterns of the american consumer seem to have changed little since the late '50s.
Scott Stirling
Jun 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Subliminal advertising explained, described, exposed and illustrated. This was pretty big in the 70s. It's still around. But this book was huge to me when I read it, in terms of my realization of the cynicism, scope of business and research behind advertising.
Natty Peterkin
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Slightly dry but highly informative, and still very relevant considering its age
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-english
Superbly written and a warning to the future, which we are now living in.
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
The astonishing thing about this book is that it was written in 1957.

It outlines the commencement of what has become an ongoing campaign to perfect be technique of selling to our unconscious. If recent world events are anything to go by, a campaign that has been successful.

While a significant portion of the book is devoted to anecdotes intended to surprise and amuse, there is more then enough there of chilling presentiment to make it a page turner.

Packard predicts the movement of subconscious
Margaret Capozzolo
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
What was once an explosive expose of advertising techniques is now definitely a period piece. With the passage of time, the once-controversial assertions of the power of advertisers to control our buying practices by toying with our psyches has become accepted commonplace knowledge. The most interesting aspect of the book was the way the author refrained from very serious discussions of the ethical and moral fitness of the techniques he described.
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A study from the 1950's on the intersection of psychology and merchandising and how it was affecting American culture and consumerism. It was one of four assigned books for us in my incoming college freshman class to read the summer before we started the fall semester in late August. Discussion classes were held during Freshman orientation.
Dave Hager
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this in college.
It still is too relevant.
It’s an indictment of the gullibility of the American average citizen susceptibility to motivational manipulation.
In discussion of motivation in a mass setting, you can easily see the roots of the Trump Campaign and the Nuremberg Rallies under the Nazi Party domination.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: design-type-etc
beginning and end weren't so interesting, but the middles reminded me of Mythologies
Frank Ashe
Nothing has changed since this book was originally published. The techniques of the advertisers have been applied to new technologies, but the ideas behind them are constant.
Barbara Ab
Apr 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Basically American as for the data he analyzes, out of date for the most of it, but still interesting in some parts
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
It was interesting...
Jun 08, 2009 is currently reading it
i found this recently somehwere and thought, "it's a classic i'vre hard of andnot yet nor thought i would read--" and had never tlaked about either, with aplologies to M. Pierre Bayard--
so giving it a go--it's a fascinating work to say the least--the lines between propaganda, advertising and even such things as the formation of literary groups etc have alwys been very fine--many of the thingsin this book remind me of and get me to tyhinbking on new--ways to think about writing, reading and the w
Steve Dotson the puritan masses became dependant consumers. A basic education in marketing and consumer behaiviour. This book was meant to shock and entertain intitially in the late 1950's, but since we have adapted a thicker skin and humor all the while knowing that marketing is cold and calculating. The Author paints a picture of how it has changed the lower working classes and the middle class.
This isnt metioned right away, but packard repeatedly offers the suggestion that "positive thinkers" as w
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“You can probably make them do anything for you: Sell people things they don’t need; make women who don’t know you fall in love with you.” 4 likes
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