The Men Who Made Us Spend

Available on BBC iPlayer from 28 June 2014

Ep 1/3

Saturday 28 June

Time to be confirmed


Why do we buy what we buy? Jacques Peretti investigates what keeps us hooked on spending and confronts some of the men behind the bestselling products and sales strategies that get inside our head.

In the first of this three-part series, Jacques reveals how product lifespan holds the key to our ever-churning consumerism.

Exploring the historical origin of planned obsolescence, when some of the world biggest electrical manufacturers formed a light bulb cartel in the 1920s, he reveals how products that are essential to our modern lifestyles are still made to break.

Jacques uncovers the process by which a crucial transformation happened – how instead of needing new goods because our old ones were broken, we learned to want them for reasons of fashion and aspiration, awaking a consumer appetite that could never be satisfied.

In the US, he visits a recycling centre where brand-new high-tech goods are destroyed before they’ve even come out of the box.

Jacques also challenges some of the companies that taught us to be dissatisfied with what we have and fed us an ever-faster cycle of ‘upgrades’. He asks a senior IKEA executive why, despite the company’s commitment to sustainability, it still encourages repeated discarding and purchasing. And he talks to a former senior Apple employee who reveals how the company’s new focus on fashion, with its colourful iPhones, keeps us buying even when technological innovation slows.