Benson & Hedges Ad (Astronaut)

“But I will always have that craving
for what I want but can't have.”
- Ashley Bowen 

The practice of placing hidden (subliminal) ideas in select print advertisements is a technique used by advertisers.  Advertisers know that most people will not spend much time looking at print advertisements.  Therefore, hidden (subliminal) imagery, ideas and words can be placed in print advertisements without immediate detection.

The Dark Side of Subliminal Advertising is a blog site that exposes the advertising technique of placing hidden (subliminal) ideas, imagery, and words in advertisements.

It is important to realize that ads are not designed for the conscious mind, they are deliberately designed to reach the subconscious mind.  The subconscious mind operates under a different set of laws compared to the operations of the conscious mind.

On average, people look at a print ad for no more than two seconds.  Therefore the advertiser has two seconds in which to convey a message in order to increase sales.

With this in mind, look closely at this print advertisement and see if you notice anything interesting:

Here is the enlarged first page of the advertisement to pay close attention to:

The astronaut has a strong desire to smoke but can’t because he is in a spacesuit.  If he removes the spacesuit helmet in order to smoke, he will die.  The spacesuit restricts the astronaut’s ability to smoke.

This astronaut represents a smoker with emphysema who has a craving for a cigarette and desires to smoke, but can no longer do so. 

One of the treatments for severe emphysema involves the use of a ventilator, or artificial breathing machine.  Just like the astronaut needs a spacesuit to supply him with oxygen in order to breathe, a smoker with severe emphysema needs a ventilator or artificial breathing machine in order to breathe.

Notice that the colors of the alien are an olive green and a dull yellow.

According to color psychology, “olive green colors remind us of decay and death and can actually have a detrimental effect on physical and emotional health. Note that sickened cartoon characters always turned green.” 1

Also, according to color psychology, “a dull yellow can bring on feelings of fear.”2

The alien is symbolic of the smoker’s ill health.

The close proximity of the alien to the astronaut symbolizes the close proximity of ill health to the smoker.

Notice that the alien’s face is very close to the astronaut’s face.  The idiom “in your face” means “defiantly confrontational; also, an exclamation of contempt.” 3

The idiom, “in your face” gives “a clear mental image of someone standing too close to you, staring aggressively into your face or shoving something in front of your face, and that's what it means. You say that someone was "in your face," when they were acting aggressively and forcing you to look at something.” 4

In essence, by being in the smoker’s face, the alien is letting the smoker know that due to smoking cigarettes, the smoker is now in ill health (emphysema) and can no longer smoke the cigarettes that he craves.


Smoking is the number one cause of emphysema. 5  Smokers with emphysema may need supplemental oxygen as emphysema worsens.

Once emphysema has developed, there is no way to cure the disease or reverse the damage it has done. 6

Since lung damage is irreversible, there is no cure for emphysema.  Smokers with emphysema will eventually die of the condition, or from an emphysema-related complication. 7

Emphysema costs more than $2.5 billion in annual health care expenses and causes or contributes to 100,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. 8

In this advertisement, the fear of emphysema is presented at a subliminal level in order to create anxiety.

Stress management expert Sally Wilson explains:

“All fear will create a degree of anxiety. Conscious fears can be relatively easy to dissolve through reasoning. Other fears can deeply affect our subconscious attitudes and affect our mental health with the power to disturb our peace of mind. We may not even be aware of them. But they will all contribute to any anxiety state we may suffer.” 9


Many people smoke in order to reduce anxiety.

Research into smoking and stress has shown that, instead of helping people to relax, smoking actually increases anxiety and tension. Nicotine creates an immediate sense of relaxation so people smoke in the belief that it reduces stress and anxiety. This feeling of relaxation is temporary and soon gives way to withdrawal symptoms and increased cravings.” 10

Smoking reduces nicotine withdrawal symptoms, which are similar to the symptoms of anxiety, but it does not reduce anxiety or deal with the underlying causes. 11

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population). 12

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