The History of Hidden Persuaders

During World War 2, social scientists in the United States were enlisted to research how mass audiences could be manipulated to support the war effort. In the mid-1950s journalist, Vance Packard (1914-1996) looked at how this research into human behaviour had made its way into the advertising industry and the way if influenced both consumer behaviour and political behaviour.

In 1957 he published his findings in a book called The Hidden Persuaders. Packard said:
“The use of mass psychoanalysis to guide campaigns of persuasion has become the basis of a multimillion-dollar industry. Professional persuaders have seized upon it in the groping for more effective ways to sell as their wares whether products, ideas, attitudes, candidates, goals, or states of mind.”
He went on to write a number of books which mapped social trends in the United States. Among them:

  • 1960 The Waste Makers about planned obsolescence
  • 1962 The Pyramid Climbers – About climbing the corporate ladder.
  • 1964 The Naked Society on the threats to privacy posed by new technologies

His last book, published in 1989, was called The Ultra Rich: How Much Is Too Much? – looked at the lives of thirty American multimillionaires and their extravagances.

Hidden Persuaders on ABC Radio Brisbane

Hidden Persuaders has been a feature of ABC Radio Brisbane, with John Harrison a regular panellist for over twelve years. Dr Harrison’s back catalogue of appearances includes discussion and debate on a wide range of industry, social, and political topics.

Current regulars on Hidden Persuaders include (clockwise) John Harrison, Senior Lecturer in Journalism & Professional Communication at The University of Queensland, Steve Austin, presenter of Drive on ABC Radio Brisbane, Amanda Newberry, principal of Articulous Communications, and Allan Bonsall, principal of Brand Genetics.