The last two decades of high-street brand mania (not to mention
four series' of Mad Men)
has, one would hope, served to heighten our awareness of PR trickery and persuasion.
Adam Curtis's mind-blowing documentary The Century of the Self tells the real story
behind psychology's sinister relationship with advertising - in its shocking entirety.
In 1919, when the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, received a box of cigars from his American cousin Edward Bernays, he returned the favour by sending one of his own books on psychological theory over to America. This unwitting gesture was to fuel one of the most profound shifts in society that the western world has ever witnessed. This four-part programme follows the Bernays' shrewd business dealings as he sets about harnessing the unconscious fears and desires of America's citizens not only onto inanimate objects, but fundamental notions of democracy and capitalism.
Originally made for the BBC's Current Affairs department (broadcast in 2002) this compelling story remains utterly relevant, to the self-aware consumer, and to everyone. Curtis -the UK's pre-eminent documentary maker - skilfully reveals the sheer power in such manipulation of the human mind and the astonishing possibilities for its exploitation everywhere, from Britain to the USA - to Nazi Germany. A must-see - available now on Google Video.