Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Carbonated Beverage of Tyrants

     When I was a kid one of the things I enjoyed most about traveling with my parents, was seeing the culture of other countries as depicted in their the media, their advertisements, their products.  One thing that was available in many other countries but not in the United States (at least not when I was younger) was the soft drink Fanta.  I remember those bright orange Fanta swooshes hanging outside of stores along unfamiliar streets and my young palate would tingle at the idea of an orange Fanta.
     So, here's what I've learned about Fanta since then.  Back during the build up to World War II, the Coca Cola Company was finding it difficult to get their product into Germany, both for logistical and political reasons.  Losing those sales would have been a huge blow to Coke's profit margin, so a new soda was developed to market in what quickly became Nazi Germany.  Coke could keep their profits but wouldn't have a great American product associated with a such an undesirable quantity.  The drink: Fanta.  One more warm memory of childhood blown to smithereens.
     That, of course, is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to media manipulation.  Don't even get me started on the Betty Crocker story.  It's hard these days to pick up a product, to see an ad or a TV show or a movie without wondering what you're being sold that you're not even aware of.
    So there's something fun to think about.  If the subject interests you, allow me to recommend and fantastic documentary called The Century of the Self, which is all about how corporations adopted psychological theory to help them present a palatable, inviting messages (and, incidentally, contains both the Fanta story and the Betty Crocker story).  Now what is the documentary trying to sell me that I'm not aware of?  I'm not sure, but I think I'd like it better than the other stuff.

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