Edward Bernays: Father of the Propaganda

Going a little bit out of the way, today we have dared to deal with a topic related to a character perhaps unknown to many, but one of the most influential in the world of advertising and public relations. In Helize we knew him little and after informing ourselves and reading about his career, we wanted to dedicate a post on our blog to comment on how his ideas influence our lives today.

“Edward Bernays spent his life discovering what makes us tick and what influences our behavior.”

With this quote, we introduce you to the main character of today’s post: Edward Bernays.

Edward Bernays: Who is it?

Edward Bernays: el padre de la propaganda

Edward Bernays was a publicist, journalist and founding father of the theory of propaganda and public relations. An Austrian Jew raised in the United States with his parents, he developed his career in advertising, journalism and public relations. He was the nephew of the well-known philosopher Sigmund Freud, from whom he took some of his ideas about the unconscious and later applied them to his own theories of persuasion and propaganda.

The Emotional Consumer Society

Have you ever bought a product, that if you stop to think about, you don’t need it? Think about it, I’m sure it’s happened to you more than once. What is this situation about?

The main protagonist of these impulse purchases or consumerism is Edward Bernays himself. In the society of almost a century ago, before the theory of propaganda, the consumption of products was motivated by real needs. After the First World War, companies were forced to sell a large surplus of products and that is where Edward did his bit. From that moment, large advertising campaigns began to be developed with the aim of changing life habits and creating the consumer society we know today.

The most striking changes in American living habits were, among others, the current and well-known American breakfast, the use of wristwatches by men and the great change in the perception of tobacco use, where women became very important.

Edward Bernays: el padre de la propaganda

In the latter case, Bernays sent a group of young models to the Easter pageant in New York and warned the press that these models would light “torches of freedom”. In the end, it turned out to be a whole strategy where they lit Lucky Strike cigarettes in front of the photographers. After this event, hundreds of women were hired to smoke in public places and film directors were paid to have the actresses smoke in the movies. Finally, this strategy changed the habits of life where, smoking ended up being considered modern and sophisticated.

Main contributions to the world of advertising

Apart from the strategies that Edward Bernays devised for companies, he developed his own line of research and wrote books where he expressed his theories and advances on propaganda. Cristallizing Public Opinion was his first book whose main theme was to talk about the strength of public opinion and how it can influence both the success and failure of an organization.

Outstanding contributions of Edward Bernays in Advertising:

  • He established the basis of Public Relations as a profession with solid principles, methods and professional ethics.
  • He integrated Public Relations into companies and organizations that later put it into practice, allowing them to improve their operations.
  • He saw Public Relations as a mechanism that organizations could use to improve our society and the organizations themselves.
  • He was one of the first people to recognize the role of women in advertising.
  • He wrote many books on Public Relations and contributed to many others.
  • Many universities around the world included this profession among the options and scientific contributions, theories and research were made.

Edward Bernays reached the remarkable age of 103. Throughout his life and career he managed to create a new science that, in his time, was a great advance for organizations. He was the first person to change deeply rooted habits in American society. He used a tool with great potential, advertising, to give a fresh and breakthrough air to brands.

Edward Bernays: El padre de la propaganda

Many people have contributed with their studies and research to achieve the advances that companies put into practice today. Among them, it is worth mentioning Barneys who, two decades after his death, his dream of influencing our behaviours, has managed to materialize.


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