Benson & Hedges (Elevator)

“One does not re-light a dead cigarette.” - Anna Held

The practice of placing hidden (subliminal) imagery 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) imagery, ideas, 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:


The elevator doors have closed in on a cigarette, ending the cigarette’s life.  Notice that the smoke emitted from the cigarette forms a profile of a skull:


The closing of the elevator doors is representative of the closing of the airways in the lungs of a dying individual who was a smoker.

Take a look at the smoke pattern to the top left of the ad:


This smoke pattern forms a couple of IV bags, one complete IV bag and the bottom of another IV bag:


See how the IV bags are connected by a tube to an area below the skull:


Smoking is the number one cause of emphysema.1  Smokers with emphysema may need supplemental oxygen as emphysema worsens.   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.2

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.3

According to stress management expert Sally Wilson:

“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.”4

Author Vijai P. Sharma states, “Some, when anxious hold their breath or start breathing rapidly and some seem to feel the chest tightening and throat closing more than others do.”5


This print ad has been deliberately created, with a subliminal message concerning the fear of emphysema and death, to reach the subconscious anxiety of the target audience.



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