The Century of The Self

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1547 |

Pages: 3|

8 min read

Published: Mar 3, 2020

Words: 1547|Pages: 3|8 min read

Published: Mar 3, 2020

Advertisements have now become a less aggressive version of propaganda. The reason for this is the relationship that developed between Sigmund Freud and his nephew Edward Bernays. In the movie titled, The Century of the Self, we learn about how Bernays took the ideas of his uncle’s philosophies and invented the profession of public relations during the beginning of the 1920’s. His nephew would go to different corporations in America and show them the way they could manipulate people into craving their products.

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This manipulation would create a need for their marketed item. It is not that a person necessarily needed their product, but now they would want it so bad that they felt like it was a need. This was done by linking the world’s mass-produced goods to the unconscious desires of people and creating this effect of need over just an innocent want. Bernays would use each and every possible trick in the book to exploit people’s feelings about products. These tricks included, but were not limited to the following: celebrity endorsements, PR stunts, and even assigning motorcars to specific genders. After viewing this film, I was completely aghast at how these small, thirty-second advertisements on my television are playing a part in controlling our society.

We currently live in a world where we feed off of advertising. Companies and people use advertising to target the very basic psychological demands and this plays off of a person’s denial of access to certain needs. Personally, every day of my life, I am exposed to companies trying to persuade me to purchase their items by linking their products to my emotions and how they know it will make me feel. For example, when I saw an advertisement for detergent, they had this brand of detergent next to cute, soft puppies, little kids, sunshine, and fluffy blankets. Seeing all of these items together represents positivity and comfort which will cause a trigger in me, in which I will surely purchase the product next time I go to the store. However, this is only because I want my blankets to be as fluffy as the ones that those cute puppies were sleeping on. This is just like Bernays had stated: “You aren’t just purchasing something; it’s how much better you will feel once you have purchased it. ”

Ads continue to dominate our world and in today’s society the things that we want are so accessible that we do not even need to think before making the purchase, but we do not realize what could be affected around us. For example, let us talk about the famous fast-food restaurant, Chick-Fil-A. They are known to have their famous cows holding up signs reading “Eat Mor Chikin,” but where do these chickens come from? Are these chickens filled with antibiotics? How many are killed a day just to provide enough supplies for their restaurants? What about the workers, do we know if they are paid a fair wage or if they are treated correctly by their management? Oh, but I do not need to worry, if I download the Chick-Fil-A application on my phone, I get a free eight count chicken nugget and this is when I will not be thinking about all my previous questions. I will no longer care because I am getting my food free of charge. This is just like Bernays stated: “Information drives behavior. ” This is where the world, especially America, has taken a wrong turn in how we treat each other. Companies continuously blind us, preying on our emotions. They know that because most Americans cannot make ends meet, then they will repeatedly come to an establishment offering promotions, good deals, or free food. When times are tough then a buy one get one free meal seems like the best option for your family, but we do not realize how we even got that product in the first place. Since we are not worried about where that product originated, we pull out our credit cards to make it happen before the promotion ends. Companies are achieving their goal of human manipulation and controlling our thoughts every single day through these deals that our tricking our minds. The whole concept of advertising actually frightens me. This is because I do not enjoy having my mind controlled by someone else and not being fully aware of it. It is happening right in front of me, but yet I did not see it. One of the biggest examples of this manipulation in our society occurs on the first Sunday of February every single year.

On this day, we get together with all of our friends and family to eat some food and watch the biggest football game of the year, The Super Bowl. The thing that goes unnoticed is that we do not just watch the top two NFL teams go head to head, large companies spend millions of dollars to give us a 30-60 second advertisement as to why their product is the best for us. We all know that Super Bowl commercials are the most anticipated because of their usual comedic value, so we all pay attention to them so we can talk about them the next day at work or school. Large companies are brilliant, because millions of people are watching, millions of people are reacting, and millions of people are buying. This helps to prove Bernays’ theory that this psychological manipulation causes an instinctive drive for all consumers to do just that, consume. The hunger created in us to have what we do not have, but now feel like we need is outstanding. It is hard to know when you are making a purchase what exactly you are getting yourself into. Let us say that someone plans to take dietary supplements such as: nutrient pills, protein powders, energy bars, or herbal extracts. These items are not required to receive approval by the U. S.

Food and Drug Administration in order to supply their product to their customers. Therefore, a person could consume the protein powder solely because they liked how the advertisement displayed the product, but the fine print stating that it is not FDA Approved goes unnoticed. This means that a company is allowed to put whatever they want to in their product and sell it without having that seal of approval. This is a prime example of marketing controlling consumers. By appealing to something such as weight loss due to the purchase of the dietary supplements, large companies know that people will ignore the side effects of the product. Showing a quicker way to lose weight successfully appeals to the emotions of majority of people, that emotional connection is why people are attracted to the product show in in that short time period that interrupted their favorite TV show. Advertising and propaganda are very powerful media tools. Both use similar multimedia formats in order to spread their message and to attract new followers or gain extra support from their already emotional army. Bernays thought that: “If you can use propaganda for war, then you could certainly use it for peace. ” I feel like the word “advertisements” is just a less aggressive and sweeter version of the word “propaganda. ” Both of these marketing strategies attempt to influence people into doing certain activities that they most likely did not want to do in the first place, but they will now. This is why I do not typically enjoy either method. I do not like how advertisements are trying to control my every move and thoughts to persuade me into making a purchase solely due to their great deals or promotions. I also do not like how propaganda uses different visuals in attempt to change how I feel about their message. No company or politician should have the right to control a person’s mind in the way that they do and tell society how they should feel by spreading lies or distracting people’s emotions. If you see the word “propaganda” as a taboo, then you should also see “advertisements” in the same exact way.

Here is something to think about, the method of propaganda does not give us a good deal, but it does change our mood and attitude about the subject at hand, advertisements are doing the exact same thing. Both of these marketing methods control our world and if we do not spread the word, companies and people can control a sole person’s spending or their followings and beliefs.

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All in all, Bernays has achieved exactly what he aimed to do. Advertisements control the way we think, the way we live, and the way we spend our money. Just remember that during these 30-60 second attractive visuals, we are shown only positivity from the marketers because no advertisements will show the negatives about their product or they would lose revenue. These visuals are not a complete source of information, they are short and cut to the chase, so the details we get are just a small portion of their truth. Companies are attempting to trigger the emotions of society, making sure we buy what they are selling. So, the next time you see “Buy One Get One Free!” or “There’s only 6 left!” are you going to give in?

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Dr. Oliver Johnson

Cite this Essay

The Century of the Self. (2020, February 27). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 21, 2024, from
“The Century of the Self.” GradesFixer, 27 Feb. 2020,
The Century of the Self. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Jun. 2024].
The Century of the Self [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2020 Feb 27 [cited 2024 Jun 21]. Available from:
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