Fears about the implications of behaviorism gave us wonderful contributions to popular culture—a glance at the Anthony Burgess/Stanley Kubrick masterpiece A Clockwork Orange in either its written or visual form is one example of that. But fear of success is not success. While clinical psychologists can bend doctrines to make them fit whatever they happen to be doing at the time—see, for instance, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy—advertisers under scrutiny by high-paying firms are more responsive to failure and hence a little more adaptive. Vicary’s subliminal advertising largely went the way of the dodo, as did crude attempts by advertisers to bombard audiences with messages over and over again. During the 1960s, especially, lifestyle identification became all the rage. This fit with the times. While many today view the 1960s as a countercultural rejection of consumer capitalism and all its wiles, it was no such thing, as Thomas Frank has chronicled in The Conquest of Cool (1997).
There is an irony here. Many in the counterculture had actually read Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders, which gave them a notion of advertising that was mechanical and behaviorist in nature. When they protested against “consumerism,” they were protesting against the Packard-Skinner model of stimulus-response. But, if anything, this opened them up to more psychodynamic forms of manipulation. Advertisers were extremely quick to pick up on the counterculture as a means to sell people products under the guise of “self-actualization”—indeed, it is not too much of an exaggeration to say that advertisers were key architects of this counterculture. The counterculture was for the advertisers a frontier at which they could construct new groups of consumers and open up markets—much as Bernays had done when he sold women cigarettes. The advertising analysts at AdAge give a few examples of this new spin on the old psychodynamic form of advertising:
[The 1960s] spawned a “creative revolution” in advertising, with agencies using self-deprecating humor, irreverence and irony to appeal to young consumers. Doyle Dane Bernbach’s Volkswagen work, launched at the end of the 1950s but emblematic of the creative, ironic approach of the 1960s, focused on the car’s “liabilities” with headlines such as “Ugly,” “Lemon” and “Think Small.” Advertising Age later named the effort the top campaign of the 20th century. One key goal of advertising was to win over young consumers, who were disaffected and distrustful of corporate messages. Both Pepsi-Cola Co. and Coca-Cola Co. managed to do this well. Pepsi’s “Think young” and “Pepsi Generation” campaigns (Batten, Barton, Durstine, & Osborn) and Coca-Cola’s multi-ethnic, peace-promoting “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” effort (McCann-Erickson) drove sales of the brands, at the expense of their competitors, and inaugurated the “cola wars.” Advertisers also worked to incorporate youth-targeted pop-culture references into their spots, such as Campbell’s tweaking its slogan to read “M’m, m’m, groovy!”4
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