Christmas Adverts: The Covid Class of 2020 | Redbrick TV

TV Writer Heather Collier ranks four of this year’s biggest Christmas adverts, giving her verdict on which ones are naughty and which ones are nice

Source: Christmas Adverts: The Covid Class of 2020 | Redbrick TV

Written by Heather

How do we know it’s Christmas, you ask? Simple: When the annual barrage of Christmas TV adverts makes it positively unavoidable.

For me, Christmas came around the 13th of November, the release of the coveted crowning jewel of the festive season – the John Lewis Ad – and I’m sure, for you, it couldn’t have been much later.

It’s certainly an interesting time of year. For most, a time of family and coming together; but for big business, it’s a time of fierce competition, where various advertising departments try their wits to create the ultimate heart-warming narrative, condensing the meaning of Christmas to under a minute, in a way that will capture the hearts and minds of the country, and in doing so, raise both profile – and profit.

It is no surprise, that the market for Christmas advertising has grown exponentially over the past decade, with last year’s advertising blizzard coming in at an estimated 6.8 bn, John Lewis historically being the biggest spender, previously said to have “spent about £8m on its ad featuring Elton John playing his hit ‘Your Song’” according to the BBC.

“The best ads have altered their usual feel-good formulas to incorporate messages of community”

Such Hollywood spending remains largely all in response to the overwhelming emotional response of the nation – and the opportunity it presents to exploit it – with “half” of “1,000 Brits interviewed on behalf of the Advertising Association” in 2017, admitting that they had been “moved to tears” by Christmas ads; “One in six” having said they had even “changed plans to watch the premiere of their favourite Christmas ad”. As of this year, in conversation with Kantar, BBC reveals that consumers “spend about £30bn in the so-called “golden quarter” leading up to Christmas”. Furthermore, the picture of profit for businesses to make through the advertising period is looking pretty jolly indeed.

However, in the age of Corona, strategies have changed, and the best ads have altered their usual feel-good formulas to incorporate messages of community, family, and ‘giving’ – or at least the illusion of which – in line with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s appeal for a united front with talk of “get[ting] through this winter together”.

In light of this, behold a crop of this year’s Covid cohort; Those which succeed in effectively pulling on the heartstrings, to those that simply fail to bat an eyelid.

Sainsbury’s – ‘The Gravy Song’

Coming in at top spot, an advert which has recently received great media attention – although not for the reasons it deserves. Titled ‘The Gravy Song’, the ad has become a point of controversy, not because of any issue of its own, but because of the existing racism it has illuminated in a proportion of its viewers.

Such individuals took to Twitter to express their issues with the portrayal of a black family at Christmas time, “slamming the commercial for ‘not representing them’”, as The Metro reports. This all comes of course just a few months after the wave of UK Black Live Matters protests, undermining the popular “counter-narrative” of those who say, “Britain is not racist like America” (The Independent).

The ad in question shows a telephone conversation between father and daughter set against a montage of Christmas ‘home videos’ in which time elapses. The overwhelming warmth and sentimentality radiating off of this particular family unit are deceptive enough to appear genuine and non-commercial, drawing many people to Twitter in its defence: One viewer tweeted “Sainsbury’s advert reminded me of Xmas at ours! One day it will be like that again.”  While another said, “Best ad of 2020 in my opinion”. It is this reminder of family and tradition that is undeniably therapeutic for its viewers at a time of isolation and uncertainty. The ad is simple but effective.

Verdict: 10/10

Waitrose & John Lewis – ‘Give a Little Love’

This year’s long-anticipated John Lewis ad deserves mention for its lesson in artistry. It embarks on a journey through different animated aesthetic mediums as we follow the passage of a tender heart symbolism exchanged between loveably quirky characters. We can only hope to understand it as the passing on of ‘A little love’, the title of the accompanying song written and voiced by Celeste, a song best described as “delicately placed piano notes [which] tread delicately, as if over a fresh powder of snow” (The Independent)

The advert presents us with an imagined utopia where person and pigeon alike live harmoniously sharing and receiving “small acts of kindness”. Never has a John Lewis ad appeared more relevant to the here and now, addressing the possibility within a pandemic for selfishness, by reminding us of opportunity that Christmas time brings for spreading kindness and goodwill to all. It is one of the very few, aside from Amazon’s ‘The Show Must Go On’, that actually acknowledges the pandemic, and tailors it to explore the meaning of Christmas in the current political climate.

Unlike previous years, John Lewis – similar to Boots’ ‘Help Fight Hygiene Poverty’ campaign – has also swapped out its usual taglines for a final message of charitability, revealing a philanthropic campaign to raise money for charities including Home-Start and FareShare.

Although, to say the ad has come through with providing us that seasonal kick of painful joy, leaving us emotionally unavailable for 2-5 working days, would be more than charitable. Whilst John Lewis has indeed fulfilled their side of the bargain, providing us with an advert that does encapsulate the quintessential Christmas spirit, it lacks its iconic Lewisian heart-wrench ending, akin to 2013’s ‘The Bear & the Hare’ or 2014’s ‘Monty the Penguin’; a key component which ultimately, gives the John Lewis advert’s their name. Without it, it’s just an another well-made Christmas advert.

Verdict: 8/10

Aldi – ‘Kevin the Carrot’

Another advert which successfully jumps on the bandwagon of Christmas kindness is Aldi’s annual instalment of ‘Kevin the Carrot’, first appearing in 2016. This year’s ad shows the plight of Kevin to get home in time for Christmas after being stranded miles off in a flying accident. But following the help of Harry the hedgehog and Santa himself, Kevin is reunited with his family, as well as the spread of strategically placed Aldi products that await him.

Whilst Aldi have done well to establish an ongoing festive brand which its viewers can connect to and grow to adore, the ad does nothing itself in the grand scheme of advert history. The concept of ‘getting home for Christmas’ is in itself a very cliched storyline – just ask Coca-Cola. Therefore, if the objective is to create an averagely entertaining, yet easily forgettable Christmas advert, which can neither be overly disputed nor overly praised, and remains entirely identifiable as what it is – an Aldi Christmas advert – then perhaps Aldi has arguably succeeded. The average person, if asked, would to well to say “It’s alright”, but that’s all.


Verdict: 6/10

Tesco’s – ‘No Naughty List’

And finally, an ad that showcases what it means for an advertising team to get it fundamentally wrong.

Set to the tune of Britney Spears’ ‘Oops!… I Did It Again’, Tesco rejects classic Christmas tropes of old for a more contemporary comical ad, which figuratively “absolves us of our sins” (Creative Boom). It humours us with a string of silly confessions, from bulk buying to giving a bad lockdown haircut, before reassuring them (and us) that “After a year like this, we believe there is no naughty list.”

Packaged up as a harmless ploy to “treat” yourself after a hard year, what the ad actually does, however, is encourage overindulgence and disinhibition, far removed from the wholesome meaning of Christmas attempted by the others above. It directs us to the ugly, gaudy, commercialised side of Christmas that is all about material excess, appealing to the greed in human nature, opposing all sense of compassion and selflessness.

Given the current pandemic, where an array of cases of “breaking lockdown”, including illegal raves – which in September The Sun suggested “contributed to the 300 per cent spike” – the disobedience and selfishness of some has exacerbated the Covid scene for all. Ultimately, there is something to say about an ad which suggests we should be rewarding those who have been, as they phrase it, “naughty”.

Verdict: 1/10

Written by Heather


20 Vintage Ads That Would Be Totally Illegal Now

Source: 21 Vintage Ads That Would Be Totally Illegal Now

If you’ve ever seen Mad Men, then you know that the advertising business and the fine gentlemen who ran it were really sensitive to the needs and feelings of women. They would never use sexism and your own basic fears about yourself to try and get you to buy something.

So yeah, that was a good laugh!

Snap back to reality and we’ve got some really nutso vintage ads that wouldn’t be allowed in decent conversation these days.

1. You know what’s an asset? Not being sexist.

Photo Credit: So Bad So Good

2. I don’t want to know what this man does out of a suit.

Photo Credit: So Bad So Good

3. “Not Recommended For Children Under 6.” What was wrong with people!?!

Photo Credit: So Bad So Good

4. For those frustrating days when your shampoo makes you want to shoot yourself in the face. We’ve all been there!

Photo Credit: So Bad So Good

5. No joke, this stuff was actually used to treat malaria.

Photo Credit: So Bad So Good

6. I’d prefer 23 ways to avoid a Cricketeer

Photo Credit: So Bad So Good

7. Not always. 

Photo Credit: So Bad So Good

8. I KNEW Santa smoked Camels!

Photo Credit: So Bad So Good

9. Wait. Santa smokes Lucky Strikes too?!

Photo Credit: So Bad So Good

10. If you think this is nuts, just wait until you see the commercial.

Photo Credit: So Bad So Good

11. People sat in a room, reviewed this and said, “Yes! That’s it!”

Photo Credit: So Bad So Good

12. There’s nothing cuter than a baby shaving!

Photo Credit: So Bad So Good

13. Or you could get punched in the face. Either way, you’re a Tipalet man.

Photo Credit: So Bad So Good

14. Yeah, doctors were selling smokes back then.

Photo Credit: So Bad So Good

15. …leave him immediately!

Photo Credit: So Bad So Good

16. “Drummond Sweaters. When You’re Sexist And Aren’t Afraid To Show It.”

Photo Credit: So Bad So Good

17. You know what’s adorable? Childhood diabetes.

Photo Credit: So Bad So Good

18. It’s true! Because this ad says so!

Photo Credit: So Bad So Good

19. Naked on the floor staring at shoes?

Photo Credit: So Bad So Good

20. Isn’t this technically true about everybody?

Photo Credit: So Bad So Good

Why Is Writing Easier Than Speaking for Introverts? Here’s the Science

If introverts commonly experience a “word problem,” it might seem strange, then, that they’re also known as talented writers.

Source: Why Is Writing Easier Than Speaking for Introverts? Here’s the Science

Many introverts are naturally gifted writers — so why do they clam up or draw a blank when speaking?

“Oh, I love podcasts!” I told the interviewer, who was recording me, unedited, as a guest on his podcast. “I listen to at least one every day.”

“That’s great!” the interviewer replied. “Which one is your favorite?”

“It’s uhh… ummm…”  I listened to that podcast every flippin’ day! Why couldn’t I think of its name?!

“It’s something by NPR… uhhhhh… ” I couldn’t produce the name until I quickly googled it. By that time, the conversation had moved on and the point I was trying to make died a very awkward, very public death.

Story of my life as an introvert.

It wasn’t the first time I’d drawn a blank under pressure. Job interviews and first dates are notoriously the worst. “Tell me about yourself” often results in me temporarily forgetting everything I’ve ever done with my life.

Even when the stakes are low, like in a casual conversation with a friend, I often need a few beats to think before speaking — and it’s not unusual for thoughts to swirl in my head that I simply don’t have the language to express.

Why are words so hard for introverts? Let’s take a look at the science.

Humans Mostly Think In Pictures, Not Words

To be clear, everyone forgets words or gets tongue-tied at times, even the most extroverted among us, for all kinds of reasons ranging from simple distraction to pregnancy brain. But one big, universal reason may come down to some ancient wiring: A recent Harvard study found that our species tends to prefer visual thinking to verbal thinking.

If you’ve ever heard someone describe themselves as a “visual thinker,” they mean they think in pictures, not words — which is actually very common. According to the Harvard scientists, this tendency appears to be ingrained in the most primitive parts of our brains, probably because language is overall a “recent” development for humans (you know, we started assigning different grunts to objects a mere 100,000 years ago).

Of course, those images we “see” in our minds need translation, if we’re going to get our message across to other hominid-like creatures. This takes focus and energy, and can be an inefficient process. To put it mildly, our brains are still playing evolutionary catch-up.

But that’s not the whole story when it comes to introverts.

Why Does It Seem Worse for Introverts?

If you’re an introvert like me, sometimes words seem, well, extra hard. Your “word problem” may even get you labeled as “quiet” or “shy,” when in reality, you have plenty to say. Sometimes it reflects negatively on us because we come across like we don’t know what we’re talking about, even though many introverts love learning and often become subject-matter experts in their chosen fields.

In a society that values fast and frequent talkers, it can be tough being an introvert.

How the pandemic is preparing us to work from anywhere

If we don’t always need offices to do our jobs, when do we need them? And how will the pandemic change the way we use them?

Jennifer Magnolfi Astill specializes in the strategic development of high-tech future work environments. Here’s how she believes the pandemic could shape where and how we work in the years ahead.

Source: How the pandemic is preparing us to work from anywhere


The pandemic not only made safety the new top priority, it expanded our idea of what a “workspace” can actually be.

“The pandemic is akin to a spike in the work evolution curve. It has accelerated the widespread adoption of the prior shift—mobility—to areas of the workforce traditionally more reticent to it.”

“There has been a change in mindset when it comes to the mobility of work. From the organization’s perspective, most know they can be productive but few had prior experience in managing a distributed workforce as a community.”


Do We Control Our Own Purchasing Habits?

Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

Flaws in our decision-making ability are fuel for the market.

Source: Do We Control Our Own Purchasing Habits?

By Liraz Margalit Ph.D.

Persuading rational people to make rational decisions is easy. 

Unfortunately, as humans, we’re often stuck with irrational thinking, fueled by cognitive biases and emotions.

While we’d all love to think that our actions are based on reason and logic, the truth is that we’re often driven by cognitive biases that completely ignore reality. In his book, “Descartes’ Error,” Antonio Damasio, professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California, argues that emotion is a primary ingredient in nearly  every decision.

So, how do you persuade your customers when they are heavily influenced by subjective factors that you have seemingly little control over?

The first step toward answering that question is identifying what those subjective factors are for your audience.

Define Free Choice

Flaws in our decision-making ability are fuel for the market. In certain situations, illustrated below, we are especially susceptible to external influences. 

In those situations, our primitive needs and desires plague us. Our basic urges derive from the lower-level areas of the brain, such as the limbic system, which controls emotions and motivation. When it comes to consumers, perhaps the most important characteristic of emotions is that they push us toward action. As humans, we are often compelled to do something as a response to an emotion.

Imagine this scenario: You’re at the supermarket with your three children, who you’ve just picked up from school. 

After a tiring succession of aisles, punctuated by the begging, crying and screaming of your children asking for everything that catches their eyes, you’ve arrived undaunted at the checkout line. As you wait, a brave new world greets your little loved ones: a smorgasbord of tempting candies, each colorfully-wrapped treat at exactly the height where your children can reach them. 

By wondrous coincidence, soda and popsicles are also within reach. At this moment — while you’re under the stares of the other awaiting shoppers, when you’ve successfully reached the finish line after triumphing over the ceaseless struggles that met you in every aisle of the store — you finally surrender to the pleas of your kids. 

Into the cart you toss a Kit Kat bar, a Snickers bar and a packet of M&Ms. At that critical moment, with the barrier of resistance already breached, a chilled bottle of Diet Sprite beckoning from the cooler strikes you as just what you need. Your decision, apparently a choice freely made, is actually as far as it could be from a free choice. 

It turns out that when we are worn out, tired, hungry or under pressure (or all of the above), we make decisions that differ completely from those we make when we’re calm, cool and collected.

Overestimating Our Own Powers of Reason

In countless interviews and studies, consumers have revealed that they lack basic understanding of the forces that shape their purchasing behavior. 

When they decide to purchase a particular product, they believe that they are behaving rationally, making a choice in an effort to maximize their benefit. Yet this belief is nothing more than a cognitive deception.

Granted, today’s consumers are well aware of being targets of aggressive marketing. Yet in their hearts, they believe they are strong, independent thinkers, impervious to marketers’ manipulations. 

When asked how they decide whether to purchase a particular product, consumers speak about an intensive, rational process of thought. They describe how they investigate and consider the characteristics of the product, compare the available prices, and thus attain the best value for their money. 

The Illusion of Being in Charge

The problem with their self-conception is that it’s systematically biased. We overrate our resistance to external influences. This bias derives from our need to believe that at any given moment, we are in charge of our own decisions and actions. This delusion enables us to enjoy a feeling of independence and control over our lives. The locus of control bias is a basic, essential defense mechanism, and we couldn’t survive without it.

Our misconception of subjective experience gives us the illusion of control in our decisions. In order to preserve that sense of control that is so crucial in our lives, we create supporting narratives and tell ourselves stories about rational thought processes that underlie our decisions.

In reality, however, emotion and primitive urges play a very significant role part in our purchasing decisions. Much more so than we’d like to admit.

Which Force Decides: Rational or Emotional?

Inside our brains, decision-making is the product of two opposing forces — rational and emotional. The rational conscious force is governed by the brain’s command-and-control areas, located near the forehead. The emotional unconscious force is governed by the more primitive areas, such as the limbic system, which affect feelings and immediate urges, and which we share with our fellow animals.

The human brain has no access to the unconscious processes involved in decision-making. In fact, factors that have nothing to do with the actual decision greatly influence this process, such as environmental cues, context and our emotions.

When test subjects were asked to choose between receiving two Amazon coupons in a month’s time or receiving one coupon when the experiment finished, subjects who had shown high activity in the rational systems involved in long-term planning and in regulation of urges decided to wait a month to receive two Amazon coupons. Subjects who had shown higher activity in the emotional system that deals with immediate satisfaction of needs asked to receive one Amazon coupon on the spot.

The question is why the rational system takes charge in some cases, while in other cases our resistance is weakened and the emotional system takes control. 

Draining Our Discipline 

Until recently, the consensus was that self-restraint is an innate ability — that some people are born with abundant self-discipline and others with less. In order to test that conception, subjects were asked to forgo lunch and were presented with two bowls: one full of radishes and the other full of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

Half of the subjects were instructed to eat the cookies and ignore the radishes, while the other half was instructed conversely. Immediately after eating, the subjects were asked to perform a cognitive task, a persistence-testing puzzle, which was intentionally impossible to accomplish. 

The cookie-eaters, fully armed with self-discipline and motivation, tried repeatedly to complete the task. On average, they spent nineteen minutes more at their attempts than the radish-eaters did. For their part, the radish-eaters made far fewer attempts and devoted less than half the time solving the puzzle compared to the chocolate-eating participants. 

Those who had to resist the sweets and force themselves to eat pungent vegetables could no longer find the will to fully engage in another torturous task. They were already too tired and displayed frustration and irritation. They complained that the experiment was a complete waste of time. Some of them put their hands on the table and closed their eyes.

Manipulating People for a Profit

It appears that willpower is not a talent, but a matter of available energy. 

When our kids at the supermarket have drained us of our last drop of energy, our ability to stand fast and resist is significantly impaired. When we are under pressure to catch a plane, our resistance to tempting smells from the bakery stalls is particularly low. When we’ve said a painful farewell, our ability to opt for healthy food over junk food becomes dubious.

In online buying as well, it can be observed that impulse buying tends to occur in the evening, after the hard knocks of the day erode our powers of control. Impulse buying is the purchase, for emotional reasons, of products that we don’t actually need. We purchase these things because they provide us, at the time, with a moment of emotional relief. 

In contrast, an examination of purchasing in the daytime — when our cognitive resources are still at their fullest — shows consumers more involved in price comparisons and in careful examination of product characteristics.

We don’t stop to think how much effort and expertise is invested in understanding our moments of weakness and in developing strategies for exploiting them. With sufficient knowledge and understanding of people, someone will always find a way to sell an unnecessary product.

George Akerlof, a co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, once said, “Taking advantage of weaknesses is an integral part of the free market. Manipulating people for profit is a natural aspect of the economic equilibrium. The free-market system exploits our weaknesses automatically.” 

Or in other words: if we have a weakness, the market will be sure to manipulate it.

Liraz Margalit, Ph.D., analyzes online consumer behavior, incorporating theory and academic research into a conceptual framework.Online:

ClickTale, Facebook, LinkedIn

A New Way to Publish Your Blog Posts Simultaneously as Twitter Threads — The Blog

Share your entire WordPress blog post as Twitter thread–every word, image, and video will be carried over to the social media platform. It’s never been easier to amplify the reach and engagement of your content beyond WordPress.

A New Way to Publish Your Blog Posts Simultaneously as Twitter Threads — The Blog

The Truth About False Memories – Media Psychology

We’ve been misled about the ease with which false memories can be implanted. Source: The Truth About False Memories By Denise Cummins Ph.D. A hailstorm of criticism continues to be leveled at NBC news anchor Brian Williams for “misreporting” that his helicopter was hit by a rocket propelled grenade while serving as a news correspondent covering […]

The Truth About False Memories — psych pstuff

Does B613 Really Exist? — Life Imitating Art Imitating Life



Hollywood will always be Hollywood. There will always be ridiculous chase scenes, impossible rescues and implausible conspiracies, each accompanied by the proverbial warning, “Don’t try this at home.” But sometimes, when art seems to imitate life and aspects of the fantasy world on the page or screen seem to mirror our reality, we end up asking ourselves, “Is it possible? Is that really true?”

The highly successful political drama series, Scandal, was a perfect case in point. The main character, Olivia Pope, a Washington crisis manager (a.k.a. “fixer”), was based on the real-world crisis manager and former Bush administration press aide, Judy Smith. Smith & Company has managed very real crises for clients such as Monica Lewinsky, Wesley Snipes, Michael Vick and Sony Pictures Entertainment as well as provided strategic communication consolation to various Fortune 500 companies. Olivia Pope & Associates managed the reputations of the Washington wealthy and powerful by whatever means necessary, escalating from manipulating media coverage to crime scene clean up and beyond, all while Olivia deftly (and sometimes not so deftly) managed an affair with POTUS.

But there’s more . . . because . . . Hollywood.

Just under a quarter of the way through Season 2 (of 7 seasons), in episode 13, we encountered the cryptic moniker B613. And just like that, the world of fixing was forever altered. Just like that, Scandal’s faithful audience wondered incredulously, “Does B613 really exist?” And despite its secrecy and lies, ruthless totalitarianism, brutal tactics and fearsome power, we (ahem . . . . I mean, they, of course) almost want it to.

But why?

From The Count of Monte Cristo to Charles Bronson movies, to Dexter, The Sopranos and Scandal, the theme of vigilante justice meted out by an ethical-but-not-too-ethical hero persists in the stories we tell. It persists because somewhere, hidden deep in the shadowy crevices of most minds, there is a desire for a protector who is smart enough, and powerful enough, and tough enough, to dispense real justice when the system breaks down.

We like the juxtaposition of tough (really tough) and tender. We feel for Tony Soprano when he struggles with the human condition as he sits across from his therapist, all the while knowing that in a previous episode we saw him carrying a severed head in a bowling ball bag after some serious “wet work.” Likewise, we (mostly) root for Olivia in love and war, even though we are well aware of her unscrupulous, illegal and immoral actions. We feel tenderness when those lips start to quiver.

Several psychological principles seem at play here.

Humans seem to be hard-wired, if you will, to evaluate for aspects of fairness. Fair treatment elicits positive emotions, while conversely, unfair treatment elicits negative emotions. The definition of fairness, of course, it mitigated by individual experience and cultural norms, but regardless of that definition, when principles of fairness are violated, humans tend to seek punishment and/or retribution. Of course, given the circumstances, exacting such justice in the face of injustice is not always possible, practical or beneficial. Yet the desire is there. And because this causes cognitive dissonance, individuals may seek other, less direct measures of righting the wrong — e.g., retribution by proxy. Enter the Dexters, the Tony Sopranos and the B613’s of the world, real or fictional.

A close cousin of our need for fairness is the concept of revenge. Revenge is most often, or most purely, sought in the pursuit of fairness, or rather righting unfairness. However, that definition of fairness as a justification, can be twisted, and revenge can be pursued for less noble causes that fairness — e.g., pure spite or jealousy — think the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding drama. Again, much of what we might fantasize as appropriate revenge may well be immoral and/or illegal. Thus, we count on others — whether the sanctioned processes of our legal system, or some such entity that rises above the constrains of that system — to do our so-called “dirty work.”

And then, the question becomes, “At what price, revenge?” What do we really gain in the quest to seek justice and retaliation? What do we lose? How much power do we relinquish to any entity to whom we give the task of executing our personal justice? How vulnerable do we become to them?

So back to B613. Does a secret agency exist that operates on a virtually unlimited budget beyond the oversight of government in order to protect “the Republic” in any way its Command sees fit? Some believe the answer, to some degree, is yes. Some believe it so for the sheer thrill and mystique of imagining a secret agency. Others, however, argue that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), established in 2010 by the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, bears some resemblance to Scandal’s fictional organization. The CFPB is hardly a secret. It has its own .gov site. But it does operate as an “independent agency” outside the authority of Congress. Much like B613, the CFPB is, some argue, under the control of one person — not referred to as Command, but rather a Director — though the agency does indicate a Deputy Director in its org chart.

Much like B613, CFPB has proven itself masterful in the extraction of information from American companies and consumers. The Bureau has been accused of amassing consumer data on 85–90% of American consumer credit cards with outstanding balances, a data collection program that dwarfs even the NSA’s surveillance program. And though the CFPB has yet to engage in the strong-arm tactics and “enhanced interrogation techniques” of B613 (solitary confinement, waterboarding, torture), it does pack a punch, so to speak, along the order of fines and legal action.

While the CFPB’s role is exclusively financial (again, unlike B613), it has been criticized for its overarching authority, lack of accountability, unchecked power and capacity for unilateral decisions, even, or perhaps especially among other government agencies.

United States House Financial Services Committee openly criticized CFPB for its “radical structure that is controlled by a single individual who cannot be fired for poor performance and who exercises sole control over the agency, its hiring and its budget” (Hensarling, 2013). The committee cited a lack of financial transparency and a lack of accountability to Congress or the President.

Thus far, legal action against the CFPB has been twarted. However, in October 2019, the Supreme Court announced it would review the constitutionality of the Bureau’s structure with proceedings set to begin in March 2020. But like B613, the CFPB has its staunch supporters as well, who argue that such unprecedented authority is necessary to fulfill its overarching mandate — consumer protection.

Beyond the CFPB, some argue that the real life role of B613 is played by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) clandestine units or a branch of the National Security Agency (NSA). Others insist that nothing remotely resembling the fictional agency does or could exist in the US, given the elaborate set of checks and balances in our government.

Still others argue that while there may not be one central organization, as depicted on Scandal, countless “off-the-books operations” function in an ad hoc manner — a.k.a. covert operations or “black ops.” Now we’re moving into some gray area. Depending on how one depicts these operations, they could be considered sinister conspiracies or the typical modus operandi of national security, which, by nature must hold its proverbial cards close to its chest, so to speak. Obviously, our government, or any government, for that matter, cannot make all things public. The question becomes, as it so often does with all things of a moral and ethical nature, where to draw the line. Where exactly is that murky gray area between for-your-own-good and harmful deception? And, of course, who gets to decide?

These are dilemmas humankind has struggled with since the ancient philosophers. Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we get it very, very wrong. And sometimes we are left with more questions than answers.

Even B613.

Hensarling, J. (June 18, 2013). CFPB Lacks Oversight and Accountability. U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee. Archived from the original Press release .




Do We Control Our Own Purchasing Habits? — consumer psychology research

Photo by Alexandre Godreau on Unsplash Flaws in our decision-making ability are fuel for the market. Source: Do We Control Our Own Purchasing Habits? By Liraz Margalit Ph.D. Persuading rational people to make rational decisions is easy. Unfortunately, as humans, we’re often stuck with irrational thinking, fueled by cognitive biases and emotions. While we’d all […]

via Do We Control Our Own Purchasing Habits? — consumer psychology research