subliminal seduction

Is too much made of the fact that advertisers try to sell you products by playing with your mind? Flash images during commercials? The word “sex” etched in strategic places in an otherwise tame publicity page selling a car, cigarettes, etc. Musak in supermarkets with hidden messages inciting you to buy more, or purchase a specific product. And we won’t even go into those dreaded ice cubes floating in glasses where you can see all sorts of (usually sexual) things going on…

Is there an “Anything Goes” strategy in the advertising world whereby no blow is too low to get your hard-earned cash, as long as they don’t get caught?

Maybe it only works on those who are not percetually challenged. Frankly, I don’t see the bunny:

I know Cecil addressed the subject in The Straight Dope, but I don’t have that handy. I seem to recall him pretty much debunking it.

I don’t really look at the ice cubes for very long.

I have trouble enough trying to find the bunny on the cover of Playboy.


Cecil did indeed debunk the entire concept, except for one particular subliminal message that seemed to have some influence (something on the line of “mommy and I are one,” which won’t do much to sell soda).

There are also technical limitations. The original movie theater subliminal test used a machine that flashed the image on the screen for a very short time (1/1000th of a second or less). Normal film projectors flash things at 1/24th of a second, which is not too fast for people to notice (ever notice a scratch in a frame)? So you’d see anything projected in a theater through normal means.

TV is even less likely. US TV projects an image at 1/30th of a second (or, more accurately, half the image at 1/60th of a second and the other half in another 1/60th). This also isn’t fast enough for the viewer not to notice. Further, most TV is done on film, so it’s back to 1/24th, and videotapes probably cannot be edited to get an extremely rapid image (you don’t splice videotape). I suppose someone could project the 1/1000th second image while the video camera is running, but the TV would be too slow to ensure it was picked up.

These subliminal message things really piss me off. I’ve been staring at that Pall Mall ad for 10 minutes and I can’t see any bunny. On the other hand, I do kind of want a cigarette…

Maybe that’s all the PR department needs to do: start spreading some rumor that there might be some sinister hidden picture in their ads, then everybody has to go buy the magazine or whatever to scrutinize the alleged invasion of our subconscious minds. If the image is actually on the product itself, I’m sure all of the groups opposed to it rush right out & buy a case of the product so they can study it up close. Of course they will find something, just so they can reaffirm their stance against smoking or pornography or whatever, and then it becomes a big stink & gets put on the 11 o’clock news. Then all us consumers have to run out & buy said product so we can have our own personal copies of the hidden smut before the company decides pull the design & revamp it into something even more subliminal.

opus said:

Well, that is pretty much what the original “Drink Coke/Eat Popcorn” subliminal movie ad was. The owner of the theater later admitted it was a hoax to attract attention. Guess it worked… (Unfortunately, a lot of people still believe the original story, so it continues to get passed along.)

“I don’t believe in destiny or the guiding hand of fate
I don’t believe in forever or love as a mystical state
I don’t believe in the stars or the planets
Or angels watching from above” – Neil Peart, RUSH, “Ghost of a Chance”

So Cecil has debunked subliminal advertising techniques ala Madison Avenue. Did he liken it to just a big fat hoax or perhaps an overworked superficial set of questionable and unreliable psychological phenomenom?

I have read Bryan Wilson Keyes work Subliminal Seduction. I must admit that it was a real eye-opener for me.

“Right is only half of what’s wrong” - George Harrison <i> Old Brown Shoe </i>-

Click on the ad, then click on the “figure 4” link in the subsequent text that appears. You’ll see the bunny.

There is absolutely (submit to me sexually) no truth (give me all of your money) to the effectiveness (kill Celine Dion) of so-called subliminal advertising.

I don’t know if advertisers purposefully put hidden pictures or messages on magazine covers, but if you look hard enough and have a good imagination, you can find lots of things. There are dozens of objects people have found on dollar bills that conspiracy theorists have speculated have some governmental oppressionist significance. Yeah, like the government would try to influence the peons who have dollar bills; if anything they’d put stuff on 50s, 100s, and 500s for the people in power: corporate executives and drug dealers.

I don’t know who first said “everyone’s a critic,” but I think it’s a really stupid saying.

I did this, and I’m chagrined to say I STILL don’t see the bunny. Of course, I don’t smoke, either.

That’s not a bunny - that’s Scooby-Doo. No wonder I’ve been trying to light up my Scooby snacks.

It looks to me like just a random occurrence in the pattern of light and shadow. I bet that if I took ten pictures of ten different ski slopes, at least one would contain a shape resembling some company’s logo.
If finding a kinda-sorta-bunnyish shape in that photo is evidence of subliminal advertising, then seeing a cloud shaped like Joe Camel is evidence that the tobacco companies control the weather. (I use this example because right this minute, there is a cloud outside my window which has the same outline as old Joe’s face. Should I call RJ Reynolds and complain the next time it hails?)

As with any conspiracy theory, the people who would be responsible for something as devious as sublimininal advertising would need to possess a level of intelligence, coupled with a requisite amount of hard work, that I have never personally witnessed among my friends in the advertising industry. It’s just easier to stick sweaty beer bottles next to hot babes than it is to invent some diabolical subliminal advertising campaign.

Right on, AuraSeer.

And if you consider advertising these days, who needs to go subliminal? Oh, maybe you’ve got a financial product that doesn’t lend itself to hot babe advertisments. I still have doubts because I just don’t look at the ice cubes that long.

Or maybe I’m just perceptually challenged.

Does anybody else remember trying to read the word SEX in Farrah Fawcet’s hair.

No disrespect, dragonfly, but Keyes’s book opened my eyes too – to his astonishing lack of fair-mindedness and careful thought! It was entirely unintentional on his part, but Keyes has refuted the validity of alleged “subliminal” images in ads better than anyone I can think of.

Although he personally selected and approved the cover art/photo of one of his books, he later tried to sue his publisher on grounds that they had somehow inserted a subliminal message of their own!

It’s spelled: P A R A N O I A!

What’s really at work in Keyes’ claims of purported “subliminal” ads is the well-recognized powerful tendency for humans to see non-existent patterns in essentially random scenes. That’s all.

It’s exactly the same thing that causes people to see patterns in clouds or a “man in the moon” or the “face” on Mars or even naked nymphs in linoleum patterns: if you have a strong enough imagination and squint a little, you can see just about anything you want to see (or are told to see). The patterns are in your mind, not in the object you’re looking at!

Advertisers have responded to these silly accusations by asking an excellent question: “So, exactly where would we go to hire ‘subliminal’ ad artists? They don’t teach it at graphic arts or photography schools, you know!”

And I do not want to be rude, but could you expand on this remark? I’ll admit that subliminal techniques, IMHO widely used though perhaps (almost) wholly ineffective, fall somewhere between heathen magic and artistic folly. However the foreground/background considerations deserve more than just a passing denial.

A by-the-book media orchestrated denial by big business interests is hardly new nor to be unexpected. Let us not forget the modern day debacle of corporate tobacco science and the attendant denials. I would shudder to think that they had the best interests of the American public in mind when they offerred their denials and rejections.

We all remember the picture of Lee Harvey Oswald holding a rifle similiar to the one alleged to have been used to shoot John Kennedy. But it was a cut and paste job - as the shadows in the picture go the wrong way.

I know. That’s what art is “made” out of. I also refuse to believe in the one-dimensional psycho straw man that apparently is offerred up as valid and current human psychological phenomenon. :wink:

“Right is only half of what’s wrong” - George Harrison - Old Brown Shoe -

dragonfly99 asks:

I did so in the following paragraph where I described Keyes’ ludicrous claim that his publishers had embedded their own “subliminal” image in his cover photo. I read a report of an expert photo analyst who had painstakingly compared the original negative Keyes submitted with the book’s cover. This macro- and microscopic and pixel-by-pixel electronic comparison showed that there were no consistent differences whatsoever (the trivial and unavoidable imperfections inherent in mass-reproduction were the only differences found, and they were randomly distributed).

What this proves is that Keyes only imagines he sees subliminal images in ads. Q.E.D.

There are so many problems with this assertion, I’m not sure where to begin. Let’s see…

  1. “media orchestrated”? Huh?? What media? What “orchestration”? I certainly don’t recall any wave of talk show or commercial spots on national TV or any full-page ads in major magazines and newspapers opposing Keyes or denying subliminal ads. Do you?

  2. “denial”? Read it again. It was a question, and an extremely rational, fair-minded, and practical question at that. Can you answer it?

  3. “big business”? The question I quoted came from the owner of what I recall to be a fairly small ad agency. I’m no expert, but I imagine there are more small ad agencies than big ones. And though I can’t say for certain, it seems more than likely that at least some of the ads Keyes condemns in his books came from small agencies.

  4. Finally, you’re not one of those crackpots who believes that every denial means its opposite, are you? Then on what grounds do you reject the legitimacy and forthrightness of the question I raised?

(For the record, I do not now nor have I ever had anything to do with any ad agency, nor do I know anyone who has. I have absolutely no financial interests at stake.)

A conspiracy theorist – why am I not surprised? :wink: Besides which, was it a subliminal rifle in the photo? I didn’t think so…

Art is made out of non-existent patterns in random visual noise? Boy, it sure is amazing how all those random dots of paint just happened to line up perfectly on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, isn’t it!

Ah, so perhaps you can guide me to the research that refuted the “well-recognized powerful tendency for humans to see non-existent patterns in essentially random scenes”? I eagerly await this chance to correct the errors in my understanding of “current human psychological phenomenon”!

ambushed wrote:

dragonfly99 replied:

Dragonfly, are you claiming that humans don’t tend to read images into random scenes? Have you never looked at clouds and imagined that you saw recognizable shapes? Any kid knows that game!