Best Marketing Documentary - the century of the self - marketing documentary by BBC

The Century of the Self – Part 3

The Century of the Self – A Marketing Documentary by BBC

The Century of the Self is a 2002 British television marketing documentary by BBC. It focuses on the work of psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Anna Freud, and PR consultant Edward Bernays. This series explains how people in power have used Freud’s theories for mass persuasion.

The central thesis is the tug of war between the idea that the great mass of citizenry
is an unstable swamp of barbaric instinctual drives and anxieties or is capable of using 
their better selves to dominate these drives. It is a competition between the views of
treating people as active citizens to be dealt with rationally or passive consumers to be 
pacified by catering to these underlying irrational drives.(source)


  1. “Happiness Machines” (originally broadcast 17 March 2002)
  2. “The Engineering of Consent” (originally broadcast 24 March 2002)
  3. “There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads; He Must Be Destroyed” (originally broadcast 31 March 2002)
  4. “Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering” (originally broadcast 7 April 2002)


  1. Best Documentary Series, Broadcast Awards
  2. Historical Film Of The Year, Longman/History Today Award

Nominated For

  1. Best Documentary Blubb, Royal Television Society
  2. Best Documentary, Indie Awards
  3. Best Documentary Series, Grierson Documentary Awards

Episode 3 – “There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads; He Must Be Destroyed.” (A Marketing Documentary by BBC)

It was originally broadcasted on 31st March 2002.

What to expect

  1. How a radical group of psychotherapists inspired by the ideas of Wilhelm Reich challenged the Freudian ideas.
  2. Wilhelm believed that the inner self did not need to be repressed and controlled. It should be encouraged to express itself.
  3. Then it tells about the political movement that believed in creating new beings free of the psychological conformity.
  4. Then it shows the development of self-help programs.

Wilhelm believed that sexual energy had to be expressed freely to be healthy. His theory is that there is no problem with humans. They are good but the society had made them sick and dangerous. But he also made some weird statements like he could cure cancer and make rain fall. 

He died in the 50s but his views became popular in the 60s. A group of radicals psychotherapists challenged the Freud’s ideas. They developed methods for people to express their innermost fears and desires that would allow them to shed the controls and conditioning imposed by society. That movement started with small experiments but transformed more than 80% of Americans by 80’s.

This really impacted the corporates and insurance industry took the first blow. Corporates realized that they had to do something in order to stay in business.

At that time, Abraham Maslow provided a framework to segment society into groups that had their own desires, The pyramid of needs. It helped in categorizing the people and that allowed businesses to make offers that seemed really personal to consumers.

The same methods then applied in politics and that helped Regan and Thatcher to get the power.

In the last, The documentary shows the hippie movement and how they rebelled against the state and big businesses by aiming at self-expression and self-actualization.

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Manoj Kumar

A thoughtful analytical marketer

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