TV preview: The Men Who Made Us Spend

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Have you ever returned from a trip to the shops with a whole array of items you never even knew you needed?

Have you then gone on to never use these ‘bargains’ again, and wonder why you even bothered in the first place? Well, if so, you can rest somewhat easy in the knowledge that you are not alone. And best of all, it’s probably not even your fault.

All throughout this series, presenter and investigative reporter Jacques Peretti has been taking a look at some of the methods used to persuade people to buy consumer goods, and already he has uncovered some rather alarming practices - not least the anthropologist who capitalised on people’s fears post-9/11 to sell them SUVs.

As Jacques explains in the opening episode, “We live in a world where spending never stops. But why do we buy what we buy, and how is our desire to spend manipulated? In this series I discover how products are designed to break so we buy more; how we’ve been reprogrammed to dispose of our possessions; and how technology has been used to perfect consumerism, making us constantly hungry for more.”

This final edition, then, will have its work cut out living up to the previous two shows’ impact. Surely if the revelations get much worse, they will border on the soul-destroying?

However, Jacques does round off the series with a look at how products are aimed at young consumers. He begins by visiting a group of American behavioural researchers, who put their skills to use by helping companies advertise their goods to children, and meets a car designer who promoted his vehicle to the children in the back seat rather than the parents in the front. It’s not hard to see how much sway our kids have over our spending habits, but it’s unnerving to know that advertisers know this too.

There’s also a look at how new technology simply represents a method of creating a new product - for instance, when computers were so big they were immobile, nobody could have predicted the rise of virtual pets, but now the Neopets craze is all the rage, and Jacques talks to some of the people behind its rise.

Unbelievably, he also learns how some of these same tactics are also frequently used - successfully - on adults, particularly when it comes to computer games. But surely we’re too savvy to fall for them. Aren’t we...?

The Men Who Made Us Spend, BBC2, Saturday, 9.10pm