2014: Brand Totalitarianism

33 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2013 Last revised: 6 Apr 2017

See all articles by Peter S. Menell

Peter S. Menell

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law

Date Written: February 4, 2014


As the Cold War commenced, George Orwell famously warned of a dystopian future in which government authorities pervasively surveil their citizens as part of an insidious system of public mind control. While leaks of the National Security Administration’s clandestine PRISM mass electronic data mining program have reignited fears of Big Brother, a more gradual, but possibly comparably significant, shift in information control has unfolded without much fanfare: the growing integration of advertising into news, media, expressive creativity, and social activity. This article explores the real and present threat to expressive freedom, free will, and public well-being posed by the growing integration of advertising into mass media and Internet services. What began as a largely innocuous means of cross-subsidizing print media and a solution to funding broadcast media has increasingly distorted the integrity of news reporting and creative expression as broadcasters have adapted to digital video recorders and Internet companies have built massive netizen dossiers in order to better target advertising. Part I explores the development of the advertising industry as a branch of applied psychological research. Part II traces the relationship between advertising and the funding and dissemination of expressive creativity. Part III explores the policy challenges posed by the growing integration of advertising into mass media and the larger Internet-driven cultural landscape.

Keywords: Advertising, DVR, Brands, Marketing, Big Data, Mass Media, Big Brother, Orwell, Psychology, Obesity, Creative Independence, Journalism

Suggested Citation

Menell, Peter S., 2014: Brand Totalitarianism (February 4, 2014). UC Davis Law Review, Vol. 47, No. 3, 2014; UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 2318492. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2318492 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2318492

Peter S. Menell (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

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