Advanced reality cracking Writings
Courtesy of Fravia's pages of reverse engineering, June 1998
You believe hidden manipulation being hooey? Join the club. That is
exactly what big advertisers, major media, politicians,
religious leaders and the various huge commercial corporations want you to
believe. The more you believe that, the longer and more
successfully they can secretly influence your purchasing, and your personal and
political decisions. Governments can do little (if ever) against the commercial
oligarchs of the planet. We hear very little about these subjects
these days (search the web!), but that is not because there is nothing to talk
about. On the contrary: There is too much. One always
suspects powerful commercial intervention when techniques to abuse
mankind are suddenly banished from discussion. In any event in the last 20 years
there has been a steadfast denial of
this extraordinary phenomenon by the "experts", yet
Dr. Wilson Bryan
Key and his research associates (for instance) have documented hundreds
of cases of embedding in major advertisements, including
ads run by Crest toothpaste, Vaseline, Johnnie Walker Scotch,
Kent cigarettes, Calvert whiskey, Bacardi rum, Sprite, and
20th Century Brainwashing and
what's hidden in the Microsoft's logo
by Dr. Lechnar
The advertising industry, a prominent and powerful industry,
engages in deceptive subliminal advertising which most us are unaware
of. By bypassing our unconscious mind using subliminal techniques, advertisers
tap into the vulnerabilities surrounding our unconscious mind, manipulating
and controlling us in many ways. Since the 1940's subliminal advertising
blossomed until now, when you can find subliminals in every major advertisement
and magazine cover. Legislation against the advertisers has had no effect
in curbing the use of subliminals. In this Information Age, it seems people
are no longer in control of the people. The ones in control are the ones
with knowledge (as usual). In this case, the advertisers have it; you don't. Until
In My Defense
Drives and Fears
Advertisements bombard every minute of our lives. The advertising industry
has penetrated into every aspect our this society. When I wake up in the
morning, the first thing I hear is my radio blaring out the latest ad for
Sears or the Penn State Bookstore. At night, the last thing I see is the
latest peroxide innovation on the toothpaste tube. Most of us ignore these
ads as we drive by the Marlboro billboard on the way to work or to the
countryside on a lovely day. However, most of us do not realize the mind
games the advertisers has been playing on our subconscious minds for the
past half century. It's a scary thought, really, when you realize the advertisers
has gained control of our lives without us even knowing it.
I stumbled onto this topic of subliminal messages in advertisements accidentally.
Before I became familiar with this subject, I have heard of naked women
in ice cubes floating on soft drinks. I have also heard of subliminal messages
being flashed in theaters telling people to drink soda and eat popcorn.
In fact, I have experimented with flashing messages on the computer
screen using a program I made at the beginning of my senior year in computer
science class. The subject of a subconscious mind being influenced without
a person's knowledge greatly intrigues me. At a science symposium I have
attended to present a research poster, I have listened to another presentation
about the effects of subliminal stimuli on the left (logical) side of the
brain. The presenter was off topic and was consequently marked by the judges.
However, she has given me the impulse to further dwell on this topic. Some
questions I have asked as I entered this research was, "Are there really
naked women in ice cubes?" "If so, are they effective in influencing people?"
And finally, "How do the advertisers put these subliminal messages into
their ads?" With these objectives in mind, I have discovered the breadth
of background knowledge I had to gather before I even attempt to analyze
the ads. I had to learn about human perception, subconscious processing,
advertising strategies, depth interviews, graphic design, and a plethora
of sub-topics. Nonetheless, I have thoroughly enjoyed this research project.
In My Defense
As I read through several of Dr. Wilson Bryan Key's
books on subliminal advertising, I was amazed and shocked at the amount
of filth and porn in the advertisements. If they were targeted for the
conscious mind, the collection of these ads would turn into your average
amateur hard-core. As I tried to show and explain some of these advertisements
to my colleagues, the first and predominant response I got was "You have
a sick mind." In defense of myself and all of the researchers who have
studied these ads, I must point out that it is the advertisers who printed
the ads. These researchers and I are simply bringing into your consciousness
mind what your unconscious mind has absorbed already. It is easy to hide
away and reject what we don't understand, as the Roman Catholic Church
did to Galileo's theory of the universe. All that I ask is that you look
into these ads and explanation with an open, even if skeptical mind.
The existence of a subconscious mind and subliminal perception is still
a controversy today. There is vast evidence for the existence of both,
but the evidence is based on a methodology that is by nature not pure scientific.
Despite the lack of conventional scientific evidence, I believe there exists
a consciousness that lies outside of our normal awareness. Although I will
later provide evidence, the paper assumes the existence of such a phenomenon.
What is your favorite ad on TV or in a magazine? Why do you like it? Is
it the dry humor? Or the dramatic irony? Advertisers use subliminal techniques
to put hidden messages into their ads. By now, your subconscious mind has
a full load of them, each expertly targeted by the advertisers. Although
the exact consequences are unknown, one can guess it is like being brainwashed
every time you see an ad.
Do advertisers really put subliminal messages on their ads? Let's explore
this topic. Go to the vending machine and buy a can of Diet Coke™. The
can looks pretty ordinary--script letters on white bubbles floating on
a silver can. Turn your attention now to the passion red glass on the lower
left and hold the can arm's-length away from you. Do you see them now?
Almost everyone I have shown the can to readily perceived the sexual image.
Although this is the most blatant example of embedding I have discovered,
Coca-Cola manages to get away with it by placing the image
in an inconspicuous spot on the can, masked by the fizzing bubbles and
bold print. Since Diet Coke is targeted at female consumers, it would seem
illogical to embed female breasts onto the soda can. According to Dr. Wilson
Bryan Key, "male genitalia in ads are usually directed
to male audiences. Female genitalia are directed to females." I will explain
later that subliminal images are most effective when associated with cultural
Apparently, subliminal perception is not a newly discovered physiological
phenomenon used only by the advertising industry. Historical scholars such
as Plato, Aristotle, and even texts such as
the Bible have alluded to a subconscious phenomenon. Early artists, such
as those in the Renaissance, have used subliminal techniques in their artwork.
Aristotle first documented the relationship between dreams
and the unconscious mind.
Impulses occurring in the daytime, if they are not very great and powerful,
pass unnoticed because of greater waking impulses.
But in the time of sleep the opposite takes what often happens in sleep;
men think that it is lightning and thundering when there are only faint
echoes in their ears, and that they are enjoying honey and sweet flowers,
when only a drop of phlegm is slipping down their throats.
One of the controversies surrounding the existence of subliminal perception
is its definition. Subliminal means "below threshold." An apple placed
in complete darkness would be below the visual threshold for perception.
It is not until the lighting on the apple increases to a sufficient level
for recognition is it considered "above threshold." The minimum stimulation
necessary to detect a particular stimulus (not necessarily recognize),
is called the absolute threshold. However, the required amount of lighting
on the apple for identification is different for everyone, and therefore
what may be subliminal to one person may not be subliminal to another.
It is generally accepted that a perception is subliminal if a great majority
of the audience can not perceive it consciously. So what is perception?
Perception is the brain's reception of incoming stimuli. Dr. Key said perception
is total and instantaneous, but only 1/1000th of this is consciously
recognized and processed. The rest is either stored in subconscious memory
or dumped as irrelevant information. Although we do not fully understand
how the brain perceives the world, advertisers have no interest in the
motor and gears of the brain. It only cares that the brain is influenced
the most by visual stimulation and there are certain ways to stimulate
the brain without its conscious awareness. Dixon provides a good definition
of subliminal perception, which he words as "subliminal reception."
For the rest of the paper, I will use the above definition for subliminal
perception. Subliminal messages will therefore be the transmission of subliminal
content using methods which the brain subconsciously perceives but is not
The subject responds without awareness to stimulus.
Subject knows he is being stimulated, but doesn't know what it is.
Since the 19th century researchers have been performing psychological
tests to confirm the existence of subliminal perception. N. F. Dixon has
compiled over 500 studies on this topic and concluded in his book that
subliminal perceptions exists beyond any reasonable doubt. He said, "It
would seem that reports of percepts may be influenced by stimulation which
the percipient is not aware. Certainly, it can be claimed that the having
of a conscious percept does not exclude the possibility of subliminal effects."
His book is held in such esteem one advertiser quoted "Dixon's book is
basic reading for our creative department. We think of it as an operational
bible." Ironically, Dixon never guessed his work would be used for commercial
Dr. Hal C. Becker has patented a black box from 1962 to 1966 to pipe
audio subliminal messages on top of another audio source. He has used this
black box experimentally in stores to reduce theft and on weight reduction
programs. In the case of the store, which a message such as "Don't steal"
was superimposed into background music, theft in the store dropped 37%.
However, he has urged caution in the use of such device and keep an eye
on "other uses." Since his device is in patent, any company can look up
the design and build a similar device to influence the population. Who
knows, they may already by using it at every TV broadcasting station.
In 1983, an average class of Tucson eighth graders have taken a self
esteem test on processed paper with subliminal messages on it. Students
who have taken the test on paper printed with the subliminal message of
"YOU ARE LOVED" have scored 15% higher than the students who have taken
test on plain paper. The same test given to underachievers have produced
even more remarkable results-the students scored 34.7% higher on processed
paper. Dana Osman, president of Osman-Kord, Ltd., the company who printed
the paper, claims that subliminal messages only work to influence minor
decisions, and they are the most powerful when reinforcing an already made
Researchers have designed tests to quantitatively measure the physiological
responses of the body while subjected to subliminal stimuli. The researchers
connect sensitive instruments to the subject while they are asked to watch
a blank screen periodically superimposed with emotional subliminal stimuli.
Tachistoscope projectors, which can flash words or images onto the screen
with a duration of several milliseconds, are used to display the stimuli.
Although the subject reports to having no awareness of the stimuli, researchers
found they can alter the brain's alpha and theta waves, detected using
an electroencephalograph (EEG). Similarly, they can detect subtle variations
in heart rate using EKG's and higher electrical potentials on the skin
It is clear that humans can be affected by subliminal stimuli without
their conscious awareness. The understanding of the our brain is too limited
to understand how or why this works. However, the advertisers don't care
about the inner workings of the brain. They only care that the population
can be influenced and they have the resources to do the influencing.
While there are centuries of experimental proof to back the existence of
subliminal perception, the argument could be made much stronger if there
exists scientific theories of human physiology to support the case. Unfortunately,
our medical research has only begun to tap into the inner workings of the
human brain. There are some theories which could provide support. From
an evolutionary standpoint, our brains have not always had the same level
of consciousness as we do now. It can be theorized from animals living
today that their consciousness is controlled more from automatic responses
and unconsciousness behavior. Dixon contends that when our brain has evolved
from unconscious processing to conscious awareness, the brain has developed
control mechanisms to filter most of the sensory input. To fully utilize
the limited consciousness, and to protect the brain from sensory overload,
only a fraction of the sensory input is channeled into the conscious mind.
The rest is processed by our unconscious mind. Dixon writes:
It is contended that the principles of physiological summation, inhibition,
and facilitation, the notion of interactions between specific and non-specific
effects, and the existence of centrifugal-centripetal "gating" loops within
the central nervous system, provide all that is necessary for a viable
theory, without recourse to any concept that is anthropomorphic or supernatural.
In other words there is physiological basis for the possibility of subliminal
perception, but the research is not thorough enough to prove its existence.
As with every theory, there are people who argue against subliminal perception.
Some are intellectuals, but curiously, the loudest and strongest voices
come from the advertisers. The most often used argument against this phenomenon
is that it is "inherently unlikely, anthropomorphic, unparsimonious, physiologically
inexplicable, and based upon shaky methodology." There are many plausible
reasons why people vehemently deny the existence this phenomenon. According
to Dixon, people instinctually fear what they do not know. We live in a
country where personal freedom is one of the founding principles of this
democratic society. To admit to an unconsciousness is to admit to the fact
that there are areas of our brain that we can not control, but others can
without our knowledge. The resistance is explicated.
Before one can understand the subliminal techniques advertisers use to
influence the audience, one must understand the vulnerabilities in humans
they tap into. The human being is a complex creature. The same complexity
that gives us the ability to manipulate objects also makes us vulnerable
to manipulation. Once the advertisers find these vulnerabilities (and they
have done extensive research), there is little the public can do defend
themselves against the onslaught.
It is generally accepted that we possess various levels of consciousness.
For example, the state of consciousness while we dream is different from
the state when we are awake. Packard has distinguished the consciousness
into three levels.
Conscious-rational level, where people know what is going on, and are
able to tell why. The second and lower level is called, variously, preconscious
and subconscious but involves that area where a person may know in a vague
way what is going on within his own feelings, sensations, and attitudes
but would not be willing to tell why. This is the level of prejudices,
assumptions, fears, emotional promptings and so on. Finally, the third
level is where we not only are not aware of our true attitudes and feelings
but would not discuss them if we could.
Advertisers use subliminal techniques to influence the second and third
level of consciousness. They target the consumer's fears and desires, manipulating
them in ways never thought possible. On the other hand, advertisers present
to the consumer on the conscious level a safe, neutral, naturally appealing
ad to pacify the consumer's resistance to subliminal advertising. While
glancing through an ad, the average consumer block-reads paragraphs and
barely notices an ad that they have seem many times. This is prime time
in subliminal reception because the conscious mind is uninterested in the
potentially offensive subliminal material. Key writes:
To be effective, propaganda must constantly short circuit all thought
and decisions. It must operate on the individual at the level of the unconsciousness.
Critical judgment disappears altogether.
As defined earlier, perception is the brain's reception of incoming stimuli.
Some of this perception is conscious, while most of it is unconscious.
Key has said our primary sensory input is visual perception. There are
over 130 million receptor rods and cones packed in less than one square
inch of optic nerves in our retina. Key has said that the eyes do not edit
perception and the retina transmits everything to the brain's visual cortex
for processing. However, Meyers has claimed that "at the entry level, the
retina's neural layers encode and analyze the sensory information before
routing it to the cortex." Whichever the case, advertisers had done extensive
study on how our brains perceives input and has found that "most print
advertising is designed for perceptual exposure time of less than one second."
In other words, they are designed for the subconscious mind to absorb completely
instantaneously while the conscious mind barely catches the headline. Not
everyone perceives an image the same, however. Different perceptions would
ultimately affect each person's level of subliminal receptivity. For example,
"during a hypnotic trance, many subjects read quite fluently textual material
presented to them upside down and even in mirror image-an impossible task
for most people while awake." Key later concludes "it appears that individuals
trained in linear reasoning, cognitively or quantitatively oriented, have
higher [perception] thresholds and also appear more susceptible to substimuli."
Advertisers take advantage of the fact that our society and its individual
is sexually repressed in order to display sexually oriented subliminal
messages. This also partially explains why male genitalia is directed toward
males in advertisements, and female genitalia toward females. Men would
be more reserved in observing male genitalia while they would readily consciously
perceive embedded female breasts. After the image is discovered on the
Coke can (see Heaving Breasts), the viewer subsequently notices it every
time he or she sees the can. Further, the viewer is usually repulsed by
the image. This asserts Key's claim that "artists do not hide anything,
The mechanism that blocks subliminal stimuli from our conscious awareness
is part of the brain's perceptual defense system. According to Key, this
defense mechanism operates automatically and invisibly. It is a double
edged sword. It prevents perceptual (sensory) overload, suppresses anxiety,
erases bad memories, prevents disturbing conscious memory associations,
and basically keeps you sane. Although it blocks these events from your
consciousness, it redirects them to your unconscious mind and these events
still influences your behavior. Key says the effects of perceptual defense
mechanisms at work include repression, isolation, regression, fantasy formation,
sublimation, denial, projection, and introjection. He writes, "To avoid
anxiety, overload, we construct perceptual defense mechanism to either
limit or distort our perception of reality." Repression seems to be the
central perceptual defense mechanism. R. D. Lang gives the definition of
repression is when "we forget something, then we forget we have forgotten."
Dixon writes, "[The] findings from the intensive study of perceptual defence
[sic]… put the validity of subliminal perception beyond any reasonable
doubt." Advertisers take advantage of our defense mechanisms to inject
subliminal messages into our subconscious mind. By using cultural taboos,
our defense mechanisms block sexually explicit images from our conscious
mind but our unconscious mind still perceives the image. We associate the
message with the product and when we see this product on the shelf at a
later date, are subconscious mind would follow the purchasing command and
consequently influencing our conscious mind to buy the product. In the
case of repression, the subliminal command hides away in unconscious memory
until an event, like the sight of the product on the shelf, triggers it.
Memory, the mental capacity or faculty of retaining or recalling facts,
events, impressions, or previous experiences, is one of the defining elements
in being human. Without it, we would be in perpetual infancy, and probably
would be living in a class lower than most mammals. However, we do possess
this ability to use as a tool and to be manipulated without our awareness.
Meyers defines memory recall as "the ability to retrieve information not
in conscious awareness." Retrieval cues, such as pneumonic devices, facilitate
the recall of information. Since we can perceive subliminal information,
we must also have the ability to subconsciously store this information
in memory. Like conscious perception to subconscious perception, conscious
memory is very limited, while subconscious memory has an enormous capacity
but lacks the ability to intellectually synthesize and interpret information.
The more emotionalized the data, for example sex and death, the more likely
it is to be retained in subconscious memory. Dr. Wilder Renfield, a Montreal
neurosurgeon, first empirically determined the existence of a subconscious
memory mechanism during a brain surgery more than 40 years ago. He also
theorized the brain retains every perception it receives. Poetzl supported
this theory by performing dream experiments and demonstrated that subliminal
messages could trigger conscious behavior from hours do months after exposure.
From a business standpoint, this could be very useful in influencing consumers
to buy their products. The sexually loaded subliminal message works its
way into the buyers' subconscious memory and days later when the buyer
goes into a store, the retrieval cues activate the command to influence
the buyer. This is why the most influential ads are the ones you don't
remember consciously. Key states:
Ads that were recalled consciously was a loser. An advertisement is
to motivate a purchase decision-days, weeks, or even months after it has
been perceived for even an instant. The job of an ad is to sell-not to
Knowing this, advertisers will employ every technique in the book to
tempt your drives and desires while provoking your fears.
Drives and Fears
We live in a complex society where our safety and well-being is mostly
protected. Most of us feel safe driving down to the local supermarket and
back, knowing that we will not be assaulted on the way and that our kids
and home is safe from harm. What if our society is taken away, or we are
taken away from society. If a group of us is dropped on a remote island,
it is likely that some of us will survive and procreate. Coded into our
genetic structure are instincts that will assure the continuation of mankind
if we are faced with such a situation. Drives such as thirst, hunger, and
sex, will propel us to take whatever actions necessary to survive. Meyers
has said, "Sexual motivation is nature's clever way of making people procreate,
thus enabling our specie's survival. The pleasure of sex is our genes'
way of preserving and spreading themselves." Fear of death, pain, and suffering
will warn us from dangerous situations. Since we live in a sheltered society,
our primal drives and fears have been altered to fit other forms. These
diametrical extremes-the beginning and the end, have been molded into desire
for attention, reassurance, acceptance, immortality, and the fear of financial
hardship, sexual insecurity, and loss of power. Few of us worry about when
our next meal is, and whether we will be living tomorrow. If we are ever
thirsty, we approach the nearest water fountain or the vending machine.
Despite the fact that our drives and fears are subdued and domesticated,
they still exist within us. Advertisers take advantage of this to tempt
our deepest drives and scare our morbid fears. Dixon has said that since
drives exist at such a fundamental level within us, it is prime target
for subliminal stimuli.
In linking the more psychopathological aspects of subjective affective
states, with their relevance to drive schema, subliminal stimuli seem more
effective and supraliminal stimuli, presumably because they bypass the
"censoring" and restrictive role of consciousness.
There are experiments supporting the greater influence of subliminal
stimuli on drives. Key says that "once primed by drive excitation, an individual
is more susceptible to substimuli." For example, Gorden and Spence, in
1966, has shown that hungry subjects are more subjective to subliminal
stimulation. To prime our sexual drives, advertisers will frequently embed
the word "SEX" into their ads .
Although our drive for physical sustenance has been greatly alleviated,
our drive for sexual satisfaction is at its peak. Therefore, sex is the
common denominator for all advertisements. Carl Moog claims that "no other
type of psychological imagery hits people close to where they live." Remember,
we are in a sexually repressed society. Sex appeals to both the conscious
and subconscious mind by attracting attention and influencing their behavior
through drive control. Advertisers not only projects how their product
enhances the sexual experience, but simply gives permission to the public
for sexual promiscuity. Moog writes:
Some of the most pervasive, sexual imagery in advertising is more symbolic
than blatant, although the connotations are far from subtle. The imagery
sends a message to the unconscious, granting permission to fulfill sexual
wishes and points the way to an attractor that can facilitate the encounter.
Armed with limitless resources, advertisers spend millions of dollars on
researching exactly how to make you buy their product. Knowing that you
have crave sex and fear death, Merit would want to know how their cigarettes
appeal to you. Schlitz Brewing Company spends 10 million dollars annually
to research how you drink beer. The consumer really doesn't know what they
want to buy in the mass market. Since mass production has taken over, the
difference in quality and effectiveness between one product and another
of a similar price is nonexistent. Some advertisers still boast the quality
of their products, but most have turned to more effective means of advertising-subliminal
advertising. In order to do this, they must do some background research.
After they find your vulnerabilities, they target specific these areas
and fire their shots of subliminal messages.
Advertisers use motivational analysis or research (MR) to find the hidden
needs of the consumer. Old techniques such is polls did not provide the
depth and accuracy of knowledge advertisers required to create ads. This
research method gained momentum in the late 40's and early 50's. Louis
Cheskin, director of the Color Research Institute of America, and Ernest
Dichter, president of the Institute for Motivational Research, Inc., claim
to be the founding fathers of MR. Dichter says that the successful ad agency
"manipulates human motivations and desires and develops a need for goods
with which the public has at one time been unfamiliar-perhaps even undesirous
of purchasing." Psychology not only holds promise for understanding people
by "ultimately controlling their behavior." One of the research techniques
advertisers used is depth interviews, either in individuals or groups.
The researcher would gather a group of people and discuss a topic, like
in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. The psychologist would lead and direct
the discussion so people would reveal their fears and desires. For example,
an alcoholic might say something about having nightmares after trying to
stop drinking. The researcher would then ask exactly what the alcoholic
was dreaming about, and then use his dreams as subliminal images on advertisements.
Devious indeed. Another method researchers use is the Rorschach Ink-blot
test, developed by Hermann Rorschach. The subjects are asked to stare into
formless ink blots and describe what they see. Supposedly, the subjects
will reveal their hidden needs by seeing what they want to see. Some more
commonly used techniques are Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), hypnosis,
cartoon bubble filling, and Szondi test. The TAT is similar to the ink
blot test, except real images and potential advertisements are used. Researchers
might hypnotize a subject and ask him to tell secrets he would never openly
reveal. In the cartoon test, the subject is shown an emotional cartoon
with the dialogue bubbles blank, and the subject is asked to fill it in.
Finally, the in Szondi test, researchers begin with the assumption that
everyone is a little crazy. They show their subjects pictures of people
and ask them who they would most likely to sit next to and least likely
to sit next to. Each picture, however, shows someone who has a psychiatric
disorder: paranoid, depressed, etc. In all of these tests, the subject
is asked to project himself. After the advertisers find what appeals most
to the consumer, they send the ideas to their graphic design artists to
include it subliminal in their ads.
Graphic design artists have a wealth of tools at their hands to expertly
embed subliminal messages into their pictures. At the dawn of subliminal
advertising, graphic artists painted on photographs. That was very difficult
to do without ruining the picture. Later, with bigger budgets and better
equipment, graphic artists used airbrushes to craft their design onto billboards
and then take a picture of it. Now, everything is done digitally on the
computer with perfection. Key has said there are six general subliminal
strategies: figure-ground reversals, embedding, double entendre, low-intensity
light and low-volume sound, tachistoscopic displays, lighting and background
sound. Graphic artists can take advantage of multiple techniques to produce
the desired effects.
To protect the brain from sensory overload, our perceptual defense mechanism
distinguishes every perception into figure (foreground, subject) and ground
(background, environment). We consciously notice the figure, while the
ground floats around it unless something there brings it to the foreground.
Perceptual psychologist Dr. E. Rubin created his famous Rubin's Profiles
that can be found in almost every psychology text book today. His profiles,
the faces and vases, old women and young women, duck and rabbit, are syncretistic
(two sided) illusions. Noticing one set of features, you see one thing,
while noticing another set of features, you see something else. Advertisers
take advantage of this to paint subliminal messages into the picture's
background. They are usually cultural taboos, making it even harder for
the audience to perceive it.
Microsoft uses syncretistic illusions in the Windows 95 startup splash
screen. It's the perfect place to put subliminal messages-most of us ignore
it. Furthermore, if we ever stared into it, we are constantly distracted
by the scrolling bar on the bottom of the screen. The intended audience
are network administrators, corporate advisors, and home users in the power
of buying this software-middle age men in their late forties. The slogan
for Windows 95 is "Where do you want to go today?" It implies freedom,
power, and control. Taken all this into account, you will find a hippie
rocker (Woodstock), black stallion, and an eagle painted in the sky. The
most prominent image is of course sex, displayed as the classic male dominant
side profile of him kissing the female below. No wonder Windows 95 is so
popular among zombies.
Embedding is the processing of hiding one image in the form of another.
This is a difficulty process but if successful, very influential. Key writes,
"Embeds enhance perceptual experience of the picture… Emotionalized, repressed
information remains in the memory system for long periods, perhaps for
a lifetime." Genitalia is one of the most often used images for embedding.
The female torso in the Diet Coke can described earlier is an example of
embedding. For alcohol or soft drink ads, advertisers like to depict their
drink in either the bottle or a glass, half filled ice cubes and half with
the drink, with condensation drops oozing down the sides of the glass.
Graphic artists has gotten a lot of expertise at embedding objects in these
pictures. The advertisers' favorite image to put in here are skulls and
screaming contorted faces. Key has analyzed such an ad and found that these
are the nightmares alcoholics have in their sleep. Using a similar technique,
I also found a dozen or so screaming faces, skulls, and animal faces in
a Seagram's Extra Dry Gin ad. If I only found one face in one ad, it could
have come from my imagination. The multitude of similar images in several
alcohol ads shows that advertisers must have intentionally put it in.
Many images, phrases, and slogans have hidden double meanings behind
them. This is called double entendre. Symbolism can also go into this category.
Often, their hidden meanings have sexual connotations. For example Microsoft's
"Where do you want to go today?" and American Express' "Do more," when
taken out of context, could have sexual implications. Key writes:
Double meanings appear to enrich significance in virtually any symbolic
stimuli. Unconsciously perceived information of this taboo nature ensures
a deep, meaningful emotional response, and continued memory.
Another example of advertiser's exploitation of double entendre is Crown
Royal's holiday whiskey ad. The whiskey bottle is completely wrapped in
a purple bag, with a card that says "To: Dad" on it. At the bottom of the
page, big bold letters say "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Below this in
smaller letters there is the phrase, "Those who appreciate quality enjoy
it responsibly." The double meaning behind this ad is the call for Dad
to have sex. During the holidays, Dad will open the bag (condom) uncovering
his masculinity and consequently enjoys sex even more.
There is a plethora of other symbolic imagery that advertisers take
advantage of. Advertisers often use lemon and oranges to portray fertility
and women. Ties are a common phallic symbol. Through these symbolic images,
can present a seemingly harmless ad while entrenching your subconscious
mind with deeper meanings. Moog writes about symbolic imagery:
Symbolic communications bypass the layers of logic and cultural appropriateness
and head straight for the unconscious, which is then free to find an equivalence
between what is symbolized, in this case sexual arousal…
Another technique advertisers is low-intensity light and its auditory
equivalent low-volume sound. Graphic artists paint faint subliminal images
below the conscious threshold of perception but above the unconscious perception
threshold. By far the most commonly embedded image is the word SEX. Key
have said that "advertisers have indiscriminately sexualized virtually
everything they publish or broadcast with subliminal SEXes." Often, graphic
artists mosaic SEXes onto textured surfaces or in edges, shadows, and highlights.
Just pick up any major magazine, relax, and stare into it for a couple
of minutes. You will soon find these SEXes popping out at you. Other commonly
used words are FUCK, DIE, and KILL, among other emotionally loaded four
letter words. Such subliminal instructions are dangerous indeed. Dixon
writes, "It may be impossible to resist instructions which are not consciously
The final two techniques, tachistoscopic display and lighting and background
sound, are used in film and video advertisers. As mentioned earlier, tachistoscopic
displays flash images onto the screen in fractions of a second not perceivable
by the conscious mind. Another method tachistoscopic displays can use is
superimposing the image onto existing image just below the conscious perception
level, as Dr. Becker has done. Lighting and background sound adjust the
mood of the scenery. In most cases, it reinforces the conscious perception.
Using these research and subliminal techniques, advertisers have great
control on the consumer. With motivational research, they have found eight
hidden needs in the human psyche: emotional security, reassurance of worth,
ego-gratification, creative outlets, love objects, sense of power, sense
of roots, and immortality. Also, advertisers found ten areas of behavior
they can subliminal influence: conscious perception, emotional response,
drive-related behaviors, adaptation levels, verbal formulations, memory,
perceptual defenses, dreams, psychopathology, and purchasing and consumption
behavior. Anyone has the potential to influence all ten behaviors, but
advertisers of course are concerned with purchasing and consumption behaviors.
With their billion dollar budgets, advertisers can use this knowledge to
break down any consumer barriers.
It is obvious that by tapping into the consumer's unconscious mind without
their knowledge, the advertisers are engaging in deceptive practices. It
is also an invasion of privacy. But, is this legal? The answer is no. There
are numerous legislation that prohibit advertisers from using subliminal
messages in their ads. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) Act Sec 5 - "prohibits
unfair or deceptive acts or practices in interstate commerce." They also
claim they "have primary responsibility for regulation of advertising in
this country." However, Key writes that "there appears to be nothing here
that would provoke the FTC into a charge of deceptive advertising." The
TV Code of the National Association of Broadcasters (IV, 14) states: "Any
technique whereby an attempt is made to convey information to the viewer
by transmitting messages below the threshold of normal awareness is not
permitted." Unfortunately, these laws are vaguely stated yet greatly limited.
The most potentially effective regulation is made by the U.S. Treasury
Department, Division of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). It states:
Subliminals are inherently deceptive because the consumer does not perceive
them at a normal level of awareness, and thus is given no choice whether
to accept or reject the message, as is the case with normal advertising.
ATF holds that this type of advertising technique is false and deceptive,
and is prohibited by law.
The problem in this legal fight is not legislation, unfortunately. It
is the proof. Because of its nature, subliminal messages are nearly impossible
to prove. How do you prove to the judge there is a naked women in the Diet
Coke can? How do you prove to the jury there are screaming faces hidden
ice cubes? In this legal system, you can't. The evidence would be considered
circumstantial. Advertisers would of course deny any such activity and
claim that if you stare into anything long enough, you will find it. The
most substantial evidence is they spending billions annually on research
and subliminal advertising. Therefore, it must work?!? Another crutch against
us is that no one, including the advertisers, know how the brain works.
They just know that it does. Until we can scientifically prove subliminal
perception, this quest may be in vain. Key writes: "The rules prohibiting
repressed media content have been ignored. None of the regulations have
ever been enforced." It seems like we are on losing grounds in this legal
Advertisers have taken a firm hold on our daily lives. Half of their dominating
influence can be attributed to their use of subliminal advertising. They
take advantage of the vulnerabilities in our subconscious minds. Using
the latest computer technology, they have unparalleled resources to manipulate
each image to target a specific weakness in us. Key claims that "subliminal
indoctrination may prove more dangerous than nuclear weapons. [Our] present
odds appear to favor total devastation." Also, he writes that "once the
group or collective unconscious is programmed into what has been called
culture, virtually any bill of good scan be sold at conscious levels."
Although the first statement is rather bleak and melodramatic, his second
point is a good one. Congressmen or private companies can use subliminal
messages on TV shows to sway votes one way or the other. The military can
muffle outcries against war. The potential for control of the American
people is enormous. What can you do to protect yourself? Knowledge. Knowledge
that advertisers are trying to influence and control you, and that you
can fight back. The next time you make a purchasing decision, ask yourself,
"Why am I choosing this product?" Buy a product because of its taste, its
quality, and its price. Never buy a product because its packaging looks
good or because it is a name brand. Remember, it is the major companies
that have the resources to do subliminal advertising. Also, harass your
congressmen to make and enforce laws against subliminal broadcasting and
printing. Write letters of complaint and gather signatures to send to the
advertiser. Eventually, it will work. Despite all this, it really is entertaining
trying to see through the advertisements and find subliminal messages in
them. It's kind of like beating them at their own game. The next time you
go out for dinner, stare into the restaurant's placements or a luscious
steamy dinner on the menu. See what you can find.
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