Crown Royal Ad

Remember that we deal with alcohol -- cunning, baffling, powerful!
-AA Big Book

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:


This could possibly be the longest running print advertisement to date.  The first time that this ad was seen by the author of this blog was in the January 1, 1975 issue of Ebony magazine.  This ad was last seen by the author of this blog in the August 1, 2000 issue of Field & Stream. 


For a print advertisement to have such longevity, it must have been a very effective ad for increasing sales of Crown Royal whisky.  This could very well be the most successful print advertisement ever created for hard liquor.

This print advertisement is also one of the darkest and most disturbing ads ever created.  As will be shown in this blog entry, this print advertisement was specifically designed to reach addicted heavy users of alcohol.


Seriously, who would really cry over dropping a bottle of whisky and breaking it?  Many people, if they accidently dropped a bottle of whisky, would simply have the mess cleaned up and then they would purchase another bottle of whisky (A fifth of this kind of whisky roughly runs around $27.00).  Some people might get mad and let out a few expletives after dropping a bottle of whisky.  But, overall this would just be an inconvenience for most people.

But, what if the person who accidently dropped this bottle of whisky was a homeless alcoholic?  What if this individual panhandled just enough cash to purchase a fifth of whisky and was looking forward to drinking it in order to satisfy the alcohol withdrawal symptoms (cravings, shakes, sweating, nausea, headache, anxiety)?  If this is the case, then it is very probable that a grown man would cry over accidently dropping and breaking a bottle of whisky.  

The meaning of the ad becomes very apparent with the assumption that the individual who dropped the bottle in this ad is a homeless individual who struggles with alcoholism.  


Take a look at this section of the print advertisement.  Do you see a swan?

Here is the image of the swan:
Here is a comparison of the image of the swan with a picture of a swan:
Now, why would there be an image of a swan in this print advertisement?  In the 12th century, the swan was given Royal status.1 Therefore the swan became the Royal guarded bird of the Crown.2

Did you catch that?  The swan was the CROWN'S ROYAL bird.  What product is being promoted in this print advertisement?  CROWN ROYAL WHISKY.  Therefore the swan is the animal that represents Crown Royal in this advertisement.

Take a look at this section of the ad.  Do you see the profile of a soldier?
Here is the isolated image of the profile of the soldier.  There is even a helmet strap that goes over the soldier's ear.
Here is the image of the profile of the soldier compared to a picture of a profile of a soldier:
Concerning this print advertisement, let’s assume that the homeless alcoholic who dropped the bottle of whiskey was an American soldier who fought in the Vietnam war.  In 1975, this print advertisement initially appeared in various magazines  towards the end of the Vietnam War.

The alcoholic portrayed in this ad suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to experiencing the horrors of war.

Around 1.7 million of all Vietnam veterans (more than half) have experienced symptoms of PTSD.4

PTSD is widely considered the most common cause of addiction or alcoholism among Vietnam veterans.5

Here are some statistics concerning homeless veterans:

The VA estimates that 107,000 veterans are homeless on any given night (23% of the homeless population are veterans).6  47% of these homeless vets served in the Vietnam-era.7

Veterans are twice as likely as other Americans to become chronically homeless.8

76% of homeless veterans experience alcohol, drug, or mental health problems.9


Take a look at this section of the ad.  Do you see the profile of a black bird?
Here is the isolated image of a black bird:
Here is the image of a black bird compared to a picture of a black bird:
According to the Myths-Dreams-Symbols Dream Dictionary, a black bird represents fear of unconscious contents.10

The most common emotion experienced in dreams is anxiety and fear.11

A black bird usually symbolizes some type of death12

Some believe that black birds are harbingers of death.13

In this advertisement, the black bird represents that death is near for the homeless alcoholic portrayed in this ad.


Take a look at this section of the ad.  Do you see the image of a knife?
Here is an isolated picture of the knife:

Here is the image of the knife compared to a picture of a knife:
Notice that there are two circles on the handle of the image of the knife that compare to the two pins on the handle of the real knife.


Take a look at this section of the ad.  Do you see the image of a meat cleaver?
Here is the isolated picture of the meat cleaver:
Here is the image of the meat cleaver compared to a picture of a meat cleaver:
Notice that there is a hole in the image of the meat cleaver that compares to the hole in the picture of a real meat cleaver.  The purpose of a hole in a meat cleaver is so that the meat cleaver can be hung on a hook.

Why do you suppose that there are images of a knife and a meat cleaver in this print advertisement?

The image of the knife and meat cleaver have been placed in this print advertisement to induce anxiety, in this case castration anxiety. 

Castration anxiety is one of Sigmund Freud's earliest psychoanalytic theories.14

The theory concerning castration anxiety involves an overwhelming fear of damage to or loss of sexual function.15

The images of the knife and meat cleaver in this ad represent an alcohol induced castration (impotence) for the homeless alcoholic.  Alcohol abuse is a major cause of male impotence.  Clinical studies have shown that prolonged alcohol abuse causes irreversible damage concerning impotence.16


Take a look at this section of the ad.  Do you see the image of an angel underneath the bottle cap?
Here is an isolated image of the angel:
Here is the image of the angel compared to an artist’s rendition of an angel.  Notice that the angel’s arms are crossed on both the image of the angel and the artist’s rendition of an angel.
This angel is not an angel of mercy.  This angel is an angel of judgement:
The homeless alcoholic has a fear of eternal judgement due to what his life has become because of the addiction to alcohol.


Take another good look at the bottle of Crown Royal and see if you can picture the profile of a person’s head.  This profile of a person’s head is complete with an eye, a round nose (looks like a clown nose), and an open mouth as part of the shape of the Crown Royal bottle:
Is this what you see?
There are two meanings concerning the subliminal profile of a person’s head.

1.     This is a profile of a person with Crown Royal in his mind.  The purpose of advertising is to get the consumer to think about the product and then to purchase the product.  In other words, the goal is to get the product inside a person's head.

2.     This profile of a person’s head represents a heavy drinker who has passed out and collapsed to the ground. 

Just like the broken bottle of whisky, the homeless alcoholic’s life is broken.  The comfort sought in this bottle of whisky is gone leaving the grown man crying.


It is incredible that, in order to boost sales, this ad portrays a problematic alcoholic.

The individual who has dropped and broken the bottle of whisky in this ad has the following characteristics:

An Alcoholic
War Veteran
Suffers With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Is Impotent
Has a fear of eternal judgement

This ad has been deliberately created to reach a select group of consumers--heavy drinkers and alcoholics.

Concerning homeless alcoholics and alcohol purchases, have you ever noticed the miniature  bottles of hard liquor that are sold in convenient stores and drug store liquor departments?

At an economical value, these small bottles of hard liquor can be purchased by an individual who panhandles enough money to purchase the small bottle of hard liquor.

In Joliet, Illinois, “selling single bottles of high-alcohol beer and miniature bottles of liquor and wine would be prohibited under an ordinance proposed by Mayor Tom Giarrante.

The measure, which would also ban the sale of half pints and pints of liquor, was presented to the Joliet Liquor Commission.

"The problem (with the small bottles) is they're easy to buy and they don't cost a lot of money," Giarrante said. "They're easy to steal and easy to hide." 17

The issue was brought to the mayor because panhandlers were observed collecting money and then buying the small bottles, primarily because they are inexpensive.18


Jean Kilbourne, who is the Chair of the Council on Alcohol states the following two comments:

1. “It frightens me still to realize how deeply alcohol advertisers understand the precise nature of addiction and how deliberately and destructively they use their knowledge” 19

2. “Recognizing this important marketing fact, alcohol companies deliberately devise ads designed to appeal to heavy drinkers. Advertising is usually directed toward promoting loyalty and increasing usage, and heavy users of any product are the best customers. The heavy user of alcohol is usually an addict.” 20

Research has discovered that 5% of the heaviest drinkers “account for as much as 50% of all alcohol consumed." 21

Currently, one in every thirteen adults (approximately 14 million Americans) abuse alcohol or are alcoholics. 22


  1. What a load of codswallop. It's the same as looking for animals in cloud shapes. Look long enough and you'll eventually see something. Somebody has too much time on their hands, combine that with a wild imagination and you end up with "the shapes" we see here.

    How subliminal are your "shapes" when you have to isolate them just to make them appear? All I saw is a broken bottle and through the haze of drunkenness I very much doubt any alcoholic would be reading magazines, which is where they'd be likely to find these advertisements.

  2. I believe that the advertisers who have subliminal imagery placed in advertisements know about the psychological phenomenon of “pareidolia”. Therefore, they can point to this psychological phenomenon and state that this is someone’s overactive imagination when subliminal imagery is exposed.

    Also, alcoholism doesn’t discriminate by socioeconomic status. Therefore, many people who are alcoholics read magazines, including corporate executives and doctors.

    I will add that this very effective print advertisement has appeared in various magazines for at least 25 years, so there are many alcoholics who have seen this advertisement. Do you know of any other print advertisement that has had such duration? Also alcohol advertising isn’t just in magazines; they are on billboards as well for all to see.

  3. I see the KKK when I look at it...

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