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Frontline: The Persuaders
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2005
PBS.org has everything an instructor needs to initially present this film to an audience. I learned about wordsmithing and creating consumer cults. The info on political data-mining and the future of political campaigns is intriguing and has the potential for serious discussion and prediction: where is this all going? It's above the needs of a 10th grade English course, but courses in psychology, media, economics, advertising, and U.S. government will find use in this film.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2006
What's wrong with being bombarded with ads? We'd like to think we are immune and to some extent we are. Frontline goes into depth about the effects of 'persuasion' techniques and what those techniques are. Of course these things are used by our government, political groups, etc. too so it is a far reaching subject. This program is a good reason to support PBS
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2006
I have just taken both marketing and public relations courses and this doc was both informative and actually entertaining because it breaks down the smoke and mirrors around one of the most pervasive forces in our American culture...the hyper-consumerism fueled by marketing. It also discusses the emotional basis of purchasing decisions and how consumers turn their back on reason when it comes to many purchasing decisions.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 15, 2012
You should watch this program. Why? As Jewel would say in the L'Oreal commercial, "Because you're worth it."

Here was the synopsis that convinced me to watch it: "Each year, legions of ad people, copywriters, market researchers, pollsters, consultants, and even linguists--most of whom work for one of six giant companies--spend billions of dollars and millions of man-hours trying to determine how to persuade consumers what to buy, whom to trust, and what to think. ... This 90-minute documentary explores how the cultures of marketing and advertising have come to influence not only what Americans buy, but also how they view themselves and the world around them."

Although I generally liked it, I was disappointed that very little attention was paid to the last part about how "persuaders" influence how we see ourselves. Most attention was paid to the behind-the-scenes stuff of how marketing works and some of the science/philosophy of it.

I think to summarize it in one sentence, it would be exactly what the guy said at the very end of the program: "The secret of all persuasion is to induce the person to persuade himself." It's all about appealing to the unconscious/emotion/reptilian brain--making you feel (rather than think) that the product/idea/politician/whatever serves your own selfish primal desires.

One marketing guru formed his marketing philosophy by studying why people join cults. The conclusion? People join both cults and brands for two reasons: (1) to belong, (2) to make meaning. "We need to figure out what the world is all about, and we need the company of others. It's as simple as that."

My favorite moment, by far, is at the beginning of Chapter 4 "Science of Selling" when a market researcher probes a poor guy with a very awkward question: "I've got a whole list of emotions here. I just want you to tell me yes or no as to whether you feel that emotion when you're eating white bread.

"...Accepting?"

The guy's eyebrows furl. He pauses. Looks to the side.

"Do you feel accepting when you're eating white bread?," the market researcher asks again, as if the guy didn't understand the question.

Another 2-second delay and then the guy finally answers, "Yeah. I would say yes," in the least convincing possible way.

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P.S. - All Frontline programs are available for free online. There is a Wikipedia page ("List of Frontline (PBS) episodes") with links to and brief descriptions of all of them.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Thought-provoking and entertaining. I've used this film in undergraduate courses about persuasion. The presentation has accurate content and the presentation is lively. I've enjoyed watching the film multiple times, and my students seem interested.

My only complaint is that one of the case studies is about launching the Song Airline, which didn't work. That case dates the piece.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2009
While PBS is often establishment-friendlyAir Wars: The Fight to Reclaim Public Broadcasting, sometimes they take a radical look at the water we fish are swimming in. "The Persuaders" is a revealing look at marketing, and how often our emotions (often subconsciously) play a role in our product purchases. The first part of "The Persuaders" analyzes how we seek things like community and transcendence in our products. Critics like Naomi Klein No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies are interviewed, as well as figures in marketing agencies and a marketing "guru" who seeks to understand the "reptilian" part of our brains. The last part of "The Persuaders" looks into how these marketing techniques have been employed by politicians. Republican public opinion researcher Frank Luntz is interviewed. He has had much success by reframing issues, such as changing the name of the Estate tax to the "Death" tax. Another successful rebranding campaign was to label the war on Iraq the War on Terror War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.
Slowly but surely, people do develop an "immunity" to some of these emtionally manipulative psychological operations, especially when consciousness is raised about them.
Here are a couple other related resources to enable our intellectual self-defense from the "persuaders":
The Corporation
Propaganda and the Public Mind
PR! - A Social History of Spin
Adbusters, January/February 2009 Issue
Manufacturing Consent - Noam Chomsky and the Media
The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain
Consuming Kids: Protecting Our Children from the Onslaught of Marketing & Advertising
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2013
It starts with an advertising blitz and ends with volunteers promoting a political party. In between, you see how corporations and institutions 'persuade' you to buy a product, adopt a lifestyle or vote for a government. The last segment on 'narrowcasting' is extremely disturbing. What do you do when a politician says one thing to you and something else to someone else - behind your back? What do you do when data mining companies have your every last habit, bias and weakness at hand, and sell this information to those who want to influence and sway you? Are they merely giving you what you want, or is it the final invasion of your privacy? It's a totally enjoyable documentary - and it will make you think again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2009
This is a powerful documentary on the advertising industry and it's power to persuade people to buy a product, idea, or a political message. The video explores the psychology that advertising firms utilize as well as the word games that politicians are told to use to get support for themselves or cause. For example, Climate Change versus Global Warming, both mean the same thing but Climate Change shounds so much "better." I think this video would be useful in an economics class, perhaps government with the angle of looking at political messages of candidates and causes. A class on media literacy would also find this video helpful. I would recommend using this video over a period of two class days or three as showing the whole 90 minute video would probably lose some kids/students. Having time to discuss the different aspects of this film would make this a great teaching tool centered around the themes of: demand vs. supply, markets & marketing, truth, desire, power, and political mis-information/propaganda to name a few.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2013
This is one video that is a must viewing for students in marketing and advertising. Must be shown in college courses in business. Also worth watching by those in the same profession.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2012
Where do opinions come from? We are kidding ourselves if we think we form our own opinions. There are a lot of people that earn a living by convincing us what to believe.
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