Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"I saw a subliminal advertising executive, but only for a second."
~ Stephen Wright

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Another guest post by Dana


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How many of you have heard the story about the 1950's experiment in subliminal advertising at a movie theater where a tachistoscope was set up in theater's projection booth, and all throughout film, "Drink Coca-Cola" and "Hungry? Eat Popcorn" flashed on the screen every five seconds?

The study, conducted by James Vicary, claimed there was an amazing 18.1% increase in Coca-Cola sales, and a whopping 57.8% jump in popcorn purchases, demonstrating the awesome power of "subliminal advertising" to coerce unwary buyers into making purchases they would not otherwise have considered.

And so the conspiracy theories began. Too bad Vicary lied about the results of his experiment. When he was challenged to repeat the test by the president of the Psychological Corporation, Dr. Henry Link, Vicary confessed that he had falsified the data from his first experiments, and some critics have since expressed doubts that he actually conducted his infamous Ft. Lee experiment at all.

So, subliminal advertising doesn't work, but that doesn't stop advertisers from (supposedly) using its techniques anyway. I came across a few examples that I thought I'd share. Clicking on the original photo will give you what those who believe subliminal advertising does work are seeing (and yes, I have too much time on my hands, but not enough to verify if any of these supposed subliminal ads are actually real).


The story behind this 1980's Coke poster is that some graphic artist was playing a joke but somehow the poster got through all of the editors without anyone seeing the ice cube image. It wasn't until the ad was blown up and placed on the back of a truck that "innocent" people saw the subliminal message.


Heineken - You probably don't even need my help for this one ...


I had to look REALLY hard (pun intended) to see anything in this one, but here you go!


As long as the cans are aligned just right, this one is pretty clear ... maybe ...

What do you think? Is it a conspiracy? Is subliminal advertising effective but big corporations are swaying the test data? Are advertisers being devious in their sales practices? Or do people just have vivid imaginations and too much time on their hands?

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18 comments:

Boonsong said...

Subliminal advertising doesn't work with me because I don't have a sublim.
Interesting post.

Have a nice day, Boonsong

Karen said...

If I was in advertising, I'd put those subliminal things in all the time as a joke. I love it.

Evil Twin's Wife said...

I graduated with a degree in Advertising. None of it means much to me. I buy what I (and the fam) like. We studied subliminal ads in school and, truly, I found them to be without merit. Too much time on their hands! LOL.

Jay said...

It doesn't work on me. I'm one of those people who stares at something forever and never sees what everyone else sees.

But, I agree with Karen. If I was in advertising I would put that stuff in there just for the lulz.

Dana said...

Boonsong, you need to get yourself one of those sublims!

Karen, it would be kind of fun, wouldn't it? If for no other reason than to see if you could sneak it past the editors?!

Dana said...

Evil Twin's Wife, I know that some people are convinced that subliminal advertising is the root cause of all the world's woes even though science proves otherwise.

Jay, or maybe it works and you just don't know it's working ...

Gina said...

I am terrible at seeing those things. Wonder what THAT means.

tjames said...

What I don't understand is why they use sex so much? Why not put "BUY ME" instead? Unless you're selling porn.

Mike said...

Somehow I can't relate pepsi and sex.

Vinny "Bond" Marini said...

There are so many examples of this throughout advertising - whether people see what they want or see what is there.

As some one who has been in the business for over 30 years, I can honestly say I have never seen it done on purpose.

nitebyrd said...

Some people have WAY too much time on their hands! Jeez, I must be as dense as a doorknob 'cause the only one I could see was the Coke one. I've still got no clue on the Royal Crown one!

Dana said...

Gina, but that's the point! Your conscious brain isn't supposed to see them ;)

tjames, sex sells! Just stop by my place on a Thursday and that will be quite evident!

Mike, you've never ... oh ... never mind ...

Dana said...

Vinny "Bond" Marini, I think people see what they want to see, but that's just my cynical self talking!

nitebyrd, they are only trying to keep us safe from the evil empire!!

Real Live Lesbian said...

I prefer polka dots. Not sure why more advertising execs don't use them!

we're doomed said...

The human spirit and the ability to be funny is a great trait for humanity.

恭v秋昀嘉 said...

Judge not of men and things at first sight................................................

Entre Nous said...

Way cool there is someone else out THERE who knows about the popcorn experiment!

Teri and the cats of Furrydance said...

Polka dots would make me buy anything!