“The Persuaders”: A reflection as a Marketing Major
The Persuaders (2004, directed by Douglass Rushcoff) is a documentary with a hard eye on the multi-billion dollar advertising and marketing industry. They examine the subconscious and psychological techniques behind advertising and marketing developments. The documentary also determines how these new methods of marketing influence us, our desires and our self-image, finally theorizing on the future implications or repercussions of the influential forces that are constantly at work.
I was very excited when we began watching this film in class, I’m a marketing major myself, with little to go on with what my future will hold, so the film was fascinating to me, it had me reflecting on many other advertisements I saw and how much they’ve influenced me without even realizing it. One of my more prominent memories was me and my family visiting the united states for the first time (that I could recall), I was watching TV in the living room of my grandmother’s house when a commercial came on for flare jeans. I felt my eyes go wide as the girls on the screen danced around sporting jeans that covered their feet almost entirely, I grew fascinated as they yelled and sang running around the screen having amazing fun, because they all had the same jeans on! I was young, didn’t care at all about fashion in the least bit, but the second the commercial was over I ran to my mother saying “I want flare jeans! I want flare jeans!” still not ENTIRELY sure as to what exactly they were. I find even now, perhaps more than ever, I am influenced by advertising in ways that I never even stopped to think about before seeing this film. The way Rushcoff presented the information was excellent; he was, for the most part, unbiased (though it’s near impossible to stay unbiased about anything, we’re only human after all) and extremely informative. I have to admit, however, that I grew more and more disheartened as the film wore on, “Breaking through the clutter” is a major theme of advertisement, will I be spending my entire career just trying to claw my way out of the clutter? Watching consumer’s trapped between me and other marketers as we bounce them back and forth like a pinball? Naomi Klein (Author of ‘No Logo’ 2000) says that “Consumers are like roaches. You spray them and spray them, and after a while, it doesn't work anymore. We develop immunities.” Is it all just a hollow game with no real winner? The film’s middle consisted of how marketer’s do their research, which is the most fascinating part to me, how do marketers do what they do? Where do they get the base data to build upon? Bringing in regular consumers like you or I, asking questions and running psychological experiments. This part almost terrified me honestly, studying cults and why people followed them, seeking to create “Loyalty to a brand beyond reason” it almost seemed like brainwashing to me. I remember when I was in high school, working in retail at my favorite mall, when the new iPhone came out, the line to the apple store wrapped around the entire second floor of the mall, blocking patrons from entering our own store. And a few months later, when apple came out with something new, it would happen all over again, and I was always in disbelief. The film covered popular companies like Saturn, Volkswagen and Apple, all with intensely strong followings. They call this Psuedo-Spiritual Marketing, making the individual feel as if they belong to a greater whole, something bigger than just themselves. Advertising simply isn’t about having the better, shinier product anymore, it’s about transcending the product and making it part of everyday life, a support beam, almost. “I can’t live without my iPhone” or “I don’t know what I’d do without [Insert your favorite product here]” admit it, we all feel that way about certain products. The last section of the film overviewed marketing found in politics, which was my least favorite part...
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