One of the most common ideas which people focus on
when they think about subliminal messaging is advertising. The idea of being able to use subliminal effects in advertising is to make the person feel a certain way towards a product and thus leading them to feel more attracted by it, and hopefully buying it.
Subliminal advertising can be broken down into two separate groups, which are subliminal advertising with the use of a Tachistoscope in which extremely brief images or statements are illustrated to the viewer and embedded “hidden images” within the image.
One of maybe the founding fathers of the concept of subliminal messaging in advertisements was James Vicary, an American market researcher. In the experiments he performed in 1957 he used the Tachistoscope to illustrate the phrases “Eat Popcorn” & “Drink Coca-cola” whilst the viewers were watching movies in the cinema. The phrases were only flashed for 3/1000 of a second however Vicary stated that the amount of popcorn and coca-cola which was sold in the cinema rose by 57% for the popcorn and 18.1% for the coca-cola in the six-week period he was doing the tests. Even though Vicary stated later in an interview in 1962 that his results from the experiment had been groomed a bit too much, Vicary’s experiment was a vital push for the start of the use of subliminal messaging in advertising (Hong, Ji-Young).
After the discovery that Vicary’s results had been falsified, the advertising industry turned towards another kind of subliminal advertising: “hidden image” advertising, specifically sexploitation.
In the 1970’s, Wilson Key wrote a book on subliminal seduction and media sexploitation in which he showed examples of subliminal sexual images inside products or their advertisements. Such as for example the following Gilbey’s gin and tonic advertisement.
In this image the word “SEX” is shown in the ice-cubes of the gin and tonic glass. This is in fact quite evident if it is examined closely (ciad). This is one of the examples which Key builds upon when illustrating the idea that our conscious does not pick up with message however our unconscious side does notice and this creates a feeling of need for the product.
Subliminal messages continued up through the 1990s, with a notable example being the camel cigarette ad show below (Hong, Ji-Young).