Silent Brainwashing by advertising?

Brian Wilson advertising distortion

My brother sent this to me, it’s a bit over a year old, so I can’t verify exact numbers but it does align with what I see on TV at least at the national level.

I don’t know if this is an insidious attempt to brianwash us as the author claims, or just advertising agencies pursuing the market that exists in their bubble.

30 thoughts on “Silent Brainwashing by advertising?

  1. We went for about 50 years seeing nothing but Ozzie and Harriet in TV commercials. No people of color. No single mothers. No one with different life styles. Certainly no gay families. Now we see them all the time. An insidious plot to do what? Increase tolerance for different kinds of people? If so, bring it on. It is long overdue.

    Far more likely, it is advertisers trying to sell to the younger generations who have very different attitudes about other cultures and life styles than the fading generation of old white people who sorely miss Ozzie and spend their declining years watching Father Knows Best re-runs.

    Those who believe the market is arbiter of all things should have no trouble understanding that no one would advertise in ways that hurt their business.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I tend to agree that it is advertisers chasing the market they see, I just doubt it bears much relation to the market that exists.

      But in any case, you don’t fix an inaccurate picture of society by showing a differently inaccurate picture.

      You admit your mistakes and try to be accurate going forward.


      1. “But in any case, you don’t fix an inaccurate picture of society by showing a differently inaccurate picture.”

        Sure, but I doubt that is the goal of advertisers. Their goal is to move their products. What is odd here is white men whining about not seeing more of themselves in soap commercials.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Advertising already does, and has for decades, manipulated the public’s view of reality.

            Think car ads. Alcohol. Online gambling. Travel. Beautiful people having a great time, no crowds, no belligerent drunks. $80k SUV’s driving up rocky trails. Everybody is a winner.

            Liked by 2 people

          2. We chuckle. When I was shooting some model homes for a development brochure decades ago, I noticed that the furniture seemed a bit smaller.

            It was. Not so much as to look ridiculous. But a few inches here and there was enough. And the furniture was nice looking, but very cheap. There were companies that specialized in propping houses for sale. There still are and if you move before your house is sold, an agent will recommend you prop the house. Small empty rooms look small. But put a bedroom suite, some dressers, etc and it looks actually more accommodating.

            Advertising v. Reality. It works like a charm.

            Liked by 2 people

          3. The reality is the makeup of this country has changed in many ways since the Mad Men days of the 60’s. Single parent families, gay couples with families, BLACK, Hispanic, and Mixed raced families.

            So what is wrong with marketers reaching out to the public using people that are part of the public?

            Calling it “brainwashing” because the “others” appear in advertising is insidious

            Liked by 1 person

          4. It’s not that “others” appear, it is that they are portrayed in grossly unrealistic proportions.

            Hence, when polled, young people assume that 24% of the population is gay.


          5. So what. Maybe they are.

            For YEARS, the only thing seen in advertising was the “nuclear family”. THat is NOT the norm any more and advertising reflects 1) the make up up the population now, and 2) trying to entice members of the “other” population to buy their products.

            Who gives a monkey’s backside if they assume 24% of the population is gay? Heck, I know families that 25% of them ARE gay. SO FREAKING WHAT?!?


          6. Inaccuracy? Or ignoring shares of the population that aren’t Nuclear Family material?

            The white hegemony is being replaced by ACCURATE descriptions and it drives old white men nuts.

            Liked by 1 person

          7. “Nuclear Family material?”

            You mean white Nuclear Family material.

            Leave it to MAGA to get their panties twisted because they do not see enough white people in soap commercials. But, very much in character.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. RE: “I don’t know if this is an insidious attempt to brianwash us as the author claims, or just advertising agencies pursuing the market that exists in their bubble.”

    I don’t know, either, but only because I can’t name names or tell the secrets of the secretive, assuming the secretive exist and have secrets to be revealed. Still, the question remains: Why is the demography of advertising collateral so different from the demography of the American public?

    I also don’t know the answer to that question, but it is notable that the purpose of advertising is to create markets, not serve them. This at least is the theory propounded by Edward Bernays, the public relations theorist who convinced women to smoke.

    Advertising is propaganda. Consciously and purposefully. Literally it is brainwashing. There is no getting around that.


  3. I have close friends with plenty of grandchildren. I have “grand” nephews and nieces. Very few have any problems with pronouns, a bugaboo among the right. Gay…pffft, old news. And the high schools nearby have plenty of interracial couples walking together, holding hands…obviously dating.

    Boomers may have “owned” the market, but no longer. We buy medicines, diapers, and kitchen tools that help arthritic hands.

    OK, many of us are still healthy and vibrant, but old age shifts priorities from consumerism to reflection for those fortunate enough to be modestly comfortable.

    As posted before, I spent my career as part of the ad business. In fact my studio won Addy Awards, including Best in Show in the nineties for ads designed, written and photographed by me and my employees. An anomaly as a photographer, but poop happens. Not bragging, just establishing some modicum of knowledge.

    Advertising’s primary purpose is to create a need or desire where there was none before. Think “new and improved” as creating desire for lagging sales of an older product. Heck, we bought “pet rocks” decades back.

    That is “brainwashing” in its simplest form. Now the demographics determine the market you’re chasing.

    This is nothing more pernicious than Black Barbie Dolls which came out decades ago. If you want to increase market share, make the “lifestyle” ads reflect all the market. And the market ain’t us anymore. True I think we still have most of the money, but it is being sucked up by healthcare, not cars.

    The gay market, for example, may be small. But many couples have lots of money. For a start, no children which cost $300,000 each to raise.

    More importantly, and to the dismay of the “replacement” worriers, we are no longer a majority White Christian nation. Or soon won’t be. We are dying out and the new reality is also the new target.

    Marketing 101. You don’t sell embroidered yarmulkes at a Baptist convention.


    PS: Rants like the post are merely “get off my lawn” responses to stir up the vestiges of “take back our country”. From whom and to where?

    IM 2nd O.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. RE: “As posted before, I spent my career as part of the ad business.”

      You bring invaluable experience to the topic at hand. May we ask you about it?

      I’m interested to know some of the mechanics of your studio business. For example, How did your clients know about you? What types of businesses hired you? Were your client points of contact typically business owners or senior managers? What were the elements or major steps of a typical contract process? Did your clients often have misconceptions about your services? What is the most important thing you learned in the advertising business?


      1. Actually all of the above. Ad agencies were an integral part for decades.

        I did a good deal of corporate work at companies like Union Camp (later International Paper), Stihl, Plasser- American, GTE Sylvania, Dollat Tree, among others. I also did a fair amount of work for area healthcare organizations like EVMS, Bon Secours, Sentara, directly and through agencies.

        Contacts. The creative and art directors of agencies. Marketing departments of corporations.

        Misconceptions? How? They hired me because they liked my portfolio or by recommendations from other clients. We marketed, too, with mailers, but all that did was establish a possible contact who might call for my portfolio. A start, but no guarantees. Like most businesses, contacts and connections helped, all things being equal. I had an agent for a short time, but we split on creative differences. Plus she was in Florida. No big deal for national exposure, but my studio suffered from “small town syndrome”. That is, a studio out of town in bigger markets had allure, even if not better quality. And in ad agency parlance, commissions on a $15,000 assignment in NY was better than on a $5,000 one in Norfolk. I have done reshoots for clients who went the out of town route. Not many, but enough to keep a good client. And bask privately in karma.

        I was part of the ad industry, not an advertising business. But photos used in ads are for illustrating the benefits of a product or service along with copy. So I was given a task to do just that and my input into the whole campaign was important enough to make decent money.

        Most important thing I learned about advertising? It works. IMO that is one of the reasons we are fat and in debt as a population. The draw of great lifestyle through ads with photos or videos go right to the brain. And successful companies spend billions because it works.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. You also asked about the contract process. Fairly straightforward. I would get a call from an agency. They would give me the details.

        I submitted an estimate with my fee, expenses, assistants, catering (if needed), travel, props, location scouting, and copyright or usage fees if applicable.

        If approved, it is signed and off we go.

        Competitive bidding? Somewhat, but to be honest the client was looking for a quality, creative product. So the competition was in creative skills and abilities. Lower fees mean little unless the budgets are really tight.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you. Fascinating stuff. I saw a web site that featured some of your photos a few years back. I can see how your portfolio helped you be successful.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. My wife noticed the anomoly some time ago that almost all commercials featured blacks. Because I DVR everything I want to watch and skip the ads I had no idea but taking a look at some ads confirmed the Caucasian is mysteriously mostly missing. The often used argument that black representation in municipal jobs, TV, politics, the arts, etc doesn’t reflect black population percentages doesn’t appear to apply in sports, TV ads, et al where they are over represented.


    1. …”that almost all commercials featured blacks.”

      A gross overstatement – IMO. It’s just that more Black Americans are being represented in advertising. SO what? Are they not part of the populace? Or are they not worthy to be represented in advertising?

      …”where they are over represented.”

      Yep. Let’s just hide them and pretend they don’t exist.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Who said anything abt hiding anyone. I merely suggested that black over representation in sports and advertising be pared down to match the US black population percentage of 13.6%. It’s the exact same thing that has been demanded by blacks on under representation in police, fire departments, city councils, etc. Isn’t that only fair?


        1. There is no “over representation” in advertising.

          And if advertisers are trying to reach an under marketed group, why not increase the numbers in the ads to show those people that they do matter to the seller?

          And your idea of “fair” is not the same as real people.


          1. That was a reply to Mr. Smith.

            But it seems like your issue with advertisers trying to do their jobs: Encourage more people to buy their products. The reality in question is the MARKET and who supports it.


          2. “It’s not about fairness, it is about distorting reality.”

            How is reality distorted by more black families than you would like being seen in soap commercials? That presupposes some sort of “normal” or “real American” sort of family. Are black families not real? Are they not “normal?” Are white people being harmed in any way?

            This is a patently ridiculous “issue” which tells anyone a lot more about the whiners than it does about the advertisers. Advertisers are trying to sell their products and have zero interest or responsibility to match what you think is “reality” in their choice of actors.

            Liked by 1 person

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