Each year, legions of ad people, copywriters, market researchers, pollsters, consultants, and even linguists-most of whom work for one of six giant companies-spend billions of dollars and millions of man-hours trying to determine how to persuade consumers what to buy, whom to trust, and what to think. Increasingly, these techniques are migrating to the high-stakes arena of politics, shaping policy and influencing how Americans choose their leaders.
In “The Persuaders,” airing Tuesday, November 9, FRONTLINE exposes the inner workings of the marketing and advertising industries, and the new and surprising methods they use to decipher who we are and what we want.
Correspondent Douglas Rushkoff (shown) takes an in-depth look at the
“persuasion industries” — advertising and public relations. To cut
through mass-media clutter and to overcome consumers’ growing
resistance to their pitches, marketers have developed new ways of
integrating their messages deeper into the fabric of our lives, using
sophisticated market research techniques to better understand
consumers, and turning increasingly to the little-understood techniques
of public relations to make sure their messages come from sources we
A documentary essay, The Persuaders also explores how the culture of
marketing has come to shape the way Americans understand the world and
themselves, and how the techniques of the persuasion industries have
migrated to politics, shaping the way our leaders formulate policy,
influence public opinion, make decisions, and stay in power.