Vance Oakley Packard
Born(1914-05-22)May 22, 1914
Granville Summit, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedDecember 12, 1996(1996-12-12) (aged 82)
EducationPennsylvania State University
Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
Occupation(s)Journalist, social critic, and author
SpouseVirginia Matthews
Children2 sons, 1 daughter
Parent(s)Philip J. Packard
Mabel Case Packard

Vance Oakley Packard (May 22, 1914 – December 12, 1996) was an American journalist and social critic. He was the author of several books, including The Hidden Persuaders and The Naked Society. He was a critic of consumerism.

Early life

Vance Packard was born on May 22, 1914, in Granville Summit, Pennsylvania, to Philip J. Packard and Mabel Case Packard.[1] Between 1920 and 1932, he attended local public schools in State College, Pennsylvania, where his father managed a dairy farm owned by the Pennsylvania State College (later Penn State University).[1] He identified himself as a "farm boy" throughout his life, although he moved to State College and in later life lived in affluent areas.[2] In 1932, he entered Pennsylvania State University, where he earned a B.A. degree, majoring in English. He graduated in 1936, and worked briefly for the local newspaper, the Centre Daily Times.[1] He earned his master's degree at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1937.[1]


Packard joined the Boston Daily Record as a staff reporter in 1937.[1] He became a reporter for the Associated Press around 1940, and in 1942, joined the staff of The American Magazine as a section editor, later becoming a staff writer.[1] That periodical closed in July, 1956, and Packard became a writer at Collier's. After its closing by the end of the year, he devoted his full attention to developing book-length projects of his own.[1] Halfway into the next year,[3] his The Hidden Persuaders was published to national attention, launching him into a career as a full-time social critic, lecturing and developing further books.[4] He was a critic of consumerism,[1] which he viewed as an attack on the traditional American way of life.[5]

In July 2020, an academic description reported on the nature and rise of the "robot prosumer", derived from modern-day technology and related participatory culture, that, in turn, was substantially predicted earlier by science fiction writers, as well as Packard.[6][7][8]

The Hidden Persuaders

"The Hidden Persuaders" redirects here. For the unrelated 2011 British film, see The Hidden Persuaders (film).

Vance Packard's book The Hidden Persuaders, about media manipulation in the 1950s, sold more than a million copies.

In The Hidden Persuaders, first published in 1957, Packard explored advertisers' use of consumer motivational research and other psychological techniques, including depth psychology and subliminal tactics, to manipulate expectations and induce desire for products, particularly in the American postwar era. He identified eight "compelling needs" that advertisers promise products will fulfill (Emotional Security, Reassurance of worth, Ego gratification, Creative outlets, Love objects, Sense of power, Roots, Immortality).

According to Packard, these needs are so strong that people are compelled to buy products merely to satisfy those needs. The book also explores the manipulative techniques of promoting politicians to the electorate. Additionally, the book questions the morality of using these techniques.[9]

While the book was a top-seller among middle-class audiences, it was widely criticised by marketing researchers and advertising executives as carrying a sensationalist tone and containing unsubstantiated assertions[which?].[10]

The Naked Society

Main article: The Naked Society

In his 1964 book called The Naked Society, Packard criticized advertisers' unfettered use of private information to create marketing schemes. He compared a recent Great Society initiative by then-president Lyndon B. Johnson, the National Data Bank, to the use of information by advertisers and argued for increased data privacy measures to ensure that information did not find its way into the wrong hands. The essay led Congress to create the Special Subcommittee on the Invasion of Privacy and inspired privacy advocates such as Neil Gallagher and Sam Ervin to fight Johnson's flagrant disregard for consumer privacy.[11]

Personal life and death

Packard was married to Virginia Matthews; they had two sons and a daughter.[1] They resided in New Canaan, Connecticut and Martha's Vineyard.[1] He died in 1996 at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital.[12]


See also

Further reading


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Severo, Richard (December 13, 1996). "Vance Packard, 82, Challenger of Consumerism, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
  2. ^ Nelson, M.T., "The Hidden Persuaders: Then and Now," Journal of Advertising, Vol. 37, no. 1, 2008, DOI: 10.2753/JOA0091-3367370109, p. 114
  3. ^ "The Hidden Persuaders – Paperback"
  4. ^ Horowitz, D., Vance Packard and Social Criticism, Horowitz, 1994, p.6
  5. ^ Del Masto, Addison (December 6, 2017). "America's Forgotten Post-War Conservative". The American Conservative. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
  6. ^ Lancaster University (24 July 2020). "Sci-fi foretold social media, Uber and Augmented Reality, offers insights into the future - Science fiction authors can help predict future consumer patterns". EurekAlert!. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  7. ^ Ryder, M.J. (23 July 2020). "Lessons from science fiction: Frederik Pohl and the robot prosumer". Journal of Consumer Culture. 22: 246–263. doi:10.1177/1469540520944228.
  8. ^ Ryder, Mike (26 July 2020). Citizen robots:biopolitics, the computer, and the Vietnam period. Lancaster University (phd). Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  9. ^ Gordon Di Renzo (1958) The American Catholic Sociological Review, Vol. 19, No. 4 (Dec., 1958) (Review)
  10. ^ Nelson, M.T., "The Hidden Persuaders: Then and Now," Journal of Advertising, Vol. 37, no. 1, 2008, DOI: 10.2753/JOA0091-3367370109, p. 113
  11. ^ O'Mara, Margaret (5 December 2018). "The End of Privacy Began in the 1960s". The New York Times.
  12. ^ "Consumerism critic, author Vance Packard". The Chicago Tribune. December 13, 1996. p. 13. Retrieved December 7, 2017 – via