New Book Exposes Secret Advertising

Hidden marketing methods are a threat to consumer rights and personal freedom according to a new book, which exposes the full range of techniques currently in use. We Know What You Want: How They Change Your Mind is an exposé of fake news, mind control scripts, propaganda and voicemail spam top the list of tricks used by corporations, government bodies and industry groups.

Maverick marketers are inventing desperate new ways to deliver their sales pitch without being detected. Unlike traditional TV, radio and press advertising, the new methods are hard to notice but still have a powerful effect. “For the right price, companies can buy national news coverage, hire thousands of children to start a craze or force their beer brand on a stadium full of drinkers,” says author Martin Howard, a media literacy advocate who gives an insider’s perspective on the advertising industry. “I think marketers are exploiting the fact that consumers don’t know how they are being targeted, and this is against the ethics of advertising.”

Subliminal advertising is illegal in the electronic media but a wide range of undetectable techniques is still in widespread use. These include undercover sales agents, instant front groups, crowd manipulation, computer spyware, product placement and data mining.

Last month it was revealed the White House had paid a journalist to give sympathetic coverage as well as a separate investigation into Video News Releases. Howard points out that deceptive PR has been standard practice for years but the public is only just finding out. “When people realize how many of their daily decisions are influenced by hidden means they are shocked. I compiled this consumer guide because I think they need to be aware.”

A close-up on the retail industry describes supermarkets and boutiques where scientific sensory manipulation increases the amount that shoppers will spend. Muzak, computer tested shelf layouts and hypnotic aromas manipulate the subconscious of the unknowing customer. Some corporations buy the influence of prominent community leaders-and even doctors-to secretly promote their products. Additionally, embedded microchips, all-knowing databases and military surveillance projects are ways in which technology is being used to monitor the public’s habits and behavior now threatening the privacy and freedom of ordinary citizens.

With an introduction by media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, We Know What You Want is a visually organized companion volume to Rushkoff’s groundbreaking book Coercion.

The book uses colorful diagrams, cartoons and quizzes to engage younger readers and average consumers. It outlines hundreds of examples and offers pointers to books and websites for further research. It was recently published by The Disinformation Company and is available at major and independent bookstores across North America, including Barnes & Noble, as well as worldwide through

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Martin Howard has spent over fifteen years in the marketing field with over ten of them in advertising agencies. While witnessing the decline of the traditional advertising agency, he became interested in emerging forms of communication and stumbled upon the writings of Marshall McLuhan and others, who charted the profound but underestimated impact of electronic media. Now a strong advocate for media literacy, his interest is in making these theories accessible to average consumers and students. He lives in Brisbane, Australia.

Martin Howard
We Know What You Want: How They Change Your Mind
192 pages, with illustrations, 1-932857-05-2, $13.95, paperback original
The Disinformation Company
Publication date: February 2005

Available at Amazon.