The Century of the Self: A powerful peek into marketing history

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Edward Bernays connected his family association with Sigmund Freud (he was his nephew) and applied psychology to media relations -- introducing the "public relations" industry.
The Century of the Self provides some powerful insights into marketing and public relations history.
The Century of the Self provides some powerful insights into marketing and public relations history.

This 2002 British Broadcasting Corp. documentary, in four one-hour sections, will provide anyone interested in marketing some serious food for thought, especially in the early parts where we learn about the earliest applications of public relations and media manipulation from psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Anna Freud, and PR consultant Edward Bernays.

Wikipedia reports that in episode one, filmmaker Adam Curtis says: “This series is about how those in power have used Freud’s theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy.”

Bernays, the founder of PR, happens to have been Sigmund Freud’s nephew, and Anna, his daughter.

Edward Bernays connected his family association with Sigmund Freud (he was his nephew) and applied psychology to media relations -- introducing the "public relations" industry.
Edward Bernays connected his family association with Sigmund Freud (he was his nephew) and applied psychology to media relations — introducing the “public relations” industry.

As the documentary proceeds, things get a little more challenging and interpretive, as some of the solid understandings appear to be converted into half-baked assumptions and either indications of forced conformity or wild self-expression.

Nevertheless, we can see into many of our current marketing practices and also the strengths and limits of the psychological science underlying many of our marketing methodologies. “Science” in the 1950s, would be much different from it is today.

Obviously, viewing this show requires a fair chunk of time. You’ll probably find the most startling insights in the first half hour.

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