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Cultural Critics of Advertisements

Digital History TOPIC ID 23

Many cultural critics, including the economist John Kenneth Galbraith and the writer Vance Packard, viewed advertisements as hidden persuaders, which create needs in consumers and employ deceit to promote the growth of a wasteful consumer culture. Others reject the view of a passive and manipulated public and argue that people buy products that meet their needs and aspirations and address their anxieties.

John Kenneth Galbraith: In the absence of the massive and artful persuasion that accompanies the management of demand, increasing abundance might well have reduced the interest of people in acquiring more goods. They would not have felt the need for multiplying the artifacts—autos, appliances, detergents, cosmetics—by which they were surrounded.

The New Industrial State, 219

Vance Packard: Advertisers treat consumers "as bundles of daydreams, misty hidden yearnings, guilt complexes, [and] irrational emotional blockages." But advertising "not only plays a vital role in promoting our economic growth but is a colorful, diverting aspect of American life."

<Hidden Persuaders, 4-6

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