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. 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). He identified himself as a "farm boy" throughout his life, although he moved to State College and in later life lived in affluent areas. 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''. He earned his master's degree at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1937.


Packard joined the ''Boston Daily Record'' as a staff reporter in 1937. 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. 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. Halfway into the next year, 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. He was a critic of consumerism, which he viewed as an attack on the traditional American way of life. 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.

''The Hidden Persuaders''

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 them. The book also explores the manipulative techniques of promoting politicians to the electorate. Additionally, the book questions the morality of using these techniques.Gordon Di Renzo (1958) ''The American Catholic Sociological Review'', Vol. 19, No. 4 (Dec., 1958) (Review) 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.

''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.

Personal life and death

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


* 1946 ''How to Pick a Mate'' – a guide co-authored with the head of the Penn State marriage counseling service * 1950 ''Animal IQ: The Human Side of Animals'' – a popular paperback on animal intelligence * 1957 ''The Hidden Persuaders'' – on the advertising industry – the first of a popular series of books on sociology topics () * 1959 ''The Status Seekers'' – describing American social stratification and behavior * 1960 ''The Waste Makers'' – criticizes planned obsolescence describing the impact of American productivity, especially on the national character * 1960 ''Oh, Happy, Happy, Happy'' – foreword by Vance Packard, with Charles Saxon * 1962 ''The Pyramid Climbers'' – describes the changing impact of American enterprise on managers, the structured lives of corporate executives and the conformity they need to advance in the hierarchy * 1964 ''The Naked Society'' – on the threats to privacy posed by new technologies such as computerized filing, modern surveillance techniques and methods for influencing human behavior * 1968 ''The Sexual Wilderness'' – on the sexual revolution of the 1960s and changes in male-female relationships * 1972 ''A Nation of Strangers'' – about the attrition of communal structure through frequent geographical transfers of corporate executives * 1977 ''The People Shapers'' – on the use of psychological & biological testing and experimentation to manipulate human behavior * 1983 ''Our Endangered Children'' – discusses growing up in a changing world, warning that American preoccupation with money, power, status, and sex ignored the needs of future generations * 1989 ''The Ultra Rich: How Much Is Too Much? '' – examines the lives of thirty American multimillionaires and their extravagances

See also

* History of advertising * History of marketing * Marketing research

Further reading

The Salon Dec 17, 1996
The Hidden Persuader * Horowitz, D. (2009) Vance Packard and American Social Criticism (University of North Carolina Press Enduring Editions) * * *


External links

{{DEFAULTSORT:Packard, Vance Category:Privacy activists Category:American activists Category:1914 births Category:1996 deaths Category:People from Bradford County, Pennsylvania Category:People from New Canaan, Connecticut Category:People from Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts Category:Pennsylvania State University alumni Category:Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism alumni Category:Advertising theorists Category:American male journalists Category:20th-century American journalists Category:American social commentators Category:Social critics Category:20th-century economists Category:20th-century American non-fiction writers Category:20th-century American male writers Category:Writers from Massachusetts Category:Writers from Pennsylvania