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Subliminal Messages in Advertising

Subliminal messages are affecting you far more than you might think.

The average person in America views hundreds of advertisements each day.  In a week this number increases to well over a thousand, and over a lifetime, it numbers in the millions.  Over 90% of the hundreds of thousands of advertisements currently in circulation contain subliminal messages.  This percentage increases every year because of how well these advertisements work.  In fact, the subliminal messages embedded in the ads, are so effective, that companies will spend millions of dollars to produce one advertisement.  The unconscious mind, according to Sigmund Freud, “is primal, hedonistic, and impulsive”.  It is a major factor in determining our actions and that is why companies will spend so much money trying to appeal to it.  Subliminal messages are used in the media to influence the public to buy products and to affect our views.

Our unconscious is a vast pool of nonsensical thought.  It takes in extreme amounts of information every instant.  If all this information were to go to our conscious mind then we would be overwhelmed.  We have a system called the “filter mechanism” that determines which information is important enough to move into the conscious mind.  The “filter mechanism,” allows only a tiny bit of information to enter our conscious.  The rest of all the information stays in our unconscious mind.  The information that is still in the unconscious stays there, and influences the actions and thoughts of the person.  In advertisements, they design information that will be staying in the unconscious, to appeal to the unconscious.  The unconscious drives, as defined by Freud, are homosexuality and the desire to have sex with the parent of the opposite gender.  That is why subliminal messages contain themes that are similar to the unconscious drives.

Subliminal messaging was first introduced in 1957 when James Vicary conducted an experiment in a small movie theater in Fort Lee, New Jersey.  In the experiment, Vicary had the movies flash “Drink Coca Cola” and “Eat Popcorn” for a few milliseconds every five minutes.  The people viewing the movie could not consciously perceive the messages because they were shown for such a short time but the statistics were astonishing.  In the month after the start of the experiment, Coca Cola sales went up 18% and popcorn sales went up 58%!  Advertising agencies immediately started to conduct studies on the effects of subliminal messaging.  Before long, subliminal embeds were being used in almost every high budget advertisement.  In 1974 the FCC announced that subliminal techniques, “whether effective or not,” were “contrary to public interest”.  After this announcement, any radio station caught using subliminal messages risked losing their broadcasting license and advertising agencies were fined if caught.  The new laws imposed by the FCC did nothing to stop these types of advertisements.  Subliminal messaging is easy to deny because it can often be interpreted two ways or it can be said that it was coincidence.  Subliminal advertising continued as strong as ever.

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User Comments
  1. Ukal

    On February 2, 2009 at 10:05 pm


    COOL STORY BRO

  2. Epi

    On February 2, 2009 at 10:30 pm


    Cool story bro

  3. Anon

    On February 2, 2009 at 10:37 pm


    Enthralling narrative, comrade.

  4. ya mum

    On February 3, 2009 at 6:27 am


    cool story bro

  5. MyMomsFlipped

    On February 3, 2009 at 7:30 am


    I agree. I work in retail & we sell many items “as seen on TV”. People come in buying the stuff thinking they really need it. 99% of it is useless crap. Part of my job is to push the sales…it’s amazing how easy it is to sell someone a piece of junk they don’t want or need.

  6. Anonymous

    On February 3, 2009 at 10:03 am


    /b/ sucks. Although, Cool Story.

  7. maranatha

    On February 3, 2009 at 10:44 am


    Now add the fact that the majority of people are not taught to control themselves or apply logic/common sense, and it is no wonder advertising has become a highly paid and misused art form.

  8. Jax Appleby

    On February 3, 2009 at 10:55 am


    This is a great aticle, and I really enjoyed reading it.
    Thanks, Jax

  9. IsabellaHanginOut

    On February 3, 2009 at 11:49 am


    Great Article, to the point and very informative, thanks for sharing…

  10. Carolyn Cordon

    On February 3, 2009 at 3:26 pm


    Subvert the dominant paradigm! Think before you buy!
    Thought-provoking article, and a great wake-up call. Consumers of the World Unite!

  11. Claudette

    On February 3, 2009 at 3:40 pm


    I absolutely agree with you. Subliminal advertising is influencing us much more than we realize. I really noticed it a while back with one particular company, which led me to notice others. In my April ‘07 Triond article in bizcovering …

    SIGNS, MESSAGES, BLESSINGS, AND MIRACLES: SUBLIMINAL SPIRITUALITY …

    I look at subliminal advertising from a spiritual perspective.

  12. Riley Themend

    On February 3, 2009 at 3:59 pm


    This was a really interesting article. I have been wondering how companies can still use subliminal messaging and not get in trouble for it. Good job

  13. jmichelsen

    On February 3, 2009 at 7:00 pm


    There have been many studies of subliminal messages from past to present. Nice article.

  14. yaffel

    On February 4, 2009 at 7:03 am


    Great article very informative

  15. trishia

    On February 4, 2009 at 10:29 am


    This is a great article offering real truth.I’m afraid these subliminal messages have become a part of most society’s thought process.It behooves me to no end to see a generation that mimmicks what they see on TV. Everybody wants to look like the actresses and actors,the Pop stars etc. I shrink when I’m watching a family program with my grands and half nude persons are displayed on ads with their underwear. I make sure I school them the same way I taught my adult children by saying “it not a good thing to expose yourself to the world”. We must teach our young that these are money making tactics;nothing more. Thank for sharing this article.

  16. Mike

    On February 4, 2009 at 10:32 am


    Amazing powers of subliminal messiging! Well written article!!

  17. Paula Mitchell Bentley

    On February 4, 2009 at 10:51 am


    Great write. I agree that consumers need to be aware of marketing techniques. The world would be a quite different place if people used their conscious minds more to make decisions. It’s like half the world is sleep walking and blindly following the pack sometimes. Wake up people!!! Look around and see what’s happening.

  18. Silent Writer

    On February 4, 2009 at 1:06 pm


    This was a really interesting read, thanks for writing!
    You have a really good writing style :)

  19. tamdesigns

    On February 4, 2009 at 1:41 pm


    Interesting information.

  20. Michal Dorcak

    On February 4, 2009 at 3:21 pm


    Great article. I like it. It is always good when somebody reminds people about things like this. I don’t know why, but I have just the opposite reaction to advertisements. I usually ignore things I’ve seen in advertisements when shopping. This is the other extreme I think. But, at least I save most of my money this way.

  21. Alixander Haban Escote

    On February 4, 2009 at 10:32 pm


    Yeah, subliminal messages are used in advertising to entice consumers to buy products and services. A very interesting article! Cheers!

  22. anon

    On February 10, 2009 at 7:00 pm


    cool story bro

  23. brotha

    On February 10, 2009 at 7:01 pm


    THIS ARTICLE HAS SUBLIMINAL MESSAGES~!!!

  24. rod

    On June 28, 2009 at 8:16 pm


    It has been proved that subliminal messages in advertising have no effect at all. James Vicary himself confessed that the results of his experiments were false.

    Nice crap of an article

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