#1: Was the publisher of The Hidden Persuaders acting ethically when it published this book?
Introduced in 1957, Vance Packard published "The Hidden Persuaders". Claiming results from a research project performed in a movie theater, Packard stated that by inserting subliminal messages into frames of the films, sales would be boosted. These messages would contain such phrases as "Buy Popcorn", or "Buy Coke". In his manual he posted that concession stand sales after the advertising rose close to 60%. The idea of exposing a hidden practice or "wrong" that a company performs is always regarded as a "Saint" act. Exposing the dirty laundry as one would say. When confronted to provide the details, Packard could not produce any of the studies or research he so called "performed", and was found out to be a fraud. The proceedings were never conducted, and Packard got away with millions for what was regarded as a "fairy tale".
Questioning his ethical practice, I believe that in fact, he was acting ethically. By claiming that he wrongfully informed readers of these facts is in fact false. How were his proceedings any different from any other fictional novel on the market? Just because his stories claimed certain facts, doesn't make them believable. It is on the consumers end to take someone's ideas and intertwine them with one's own.
#2: Why was the general public so fearful of such marketing tactics in the late 1950's?
The public were fearful of these new ideas because they were a new and unheard of way of influencing people without them knowing they were being influenced. The idea that one's choice could in fact be altered without even being aware was a frightful thing. Theoretically, if one could be influenced to buy popcorn and Coca Cola, then why couldn't they...