The Discovery

As a young kid, I picked up a magazine while standing in a checkout line at a grocery store.  While I was skimming through the pages of the magazine, an advertisement caught my attention.  The ad was a liquor ad, and what caught my attention was that in one of the ice cubes, an image of a cow could be seen.  I thought that the image was very bizarre and could not conceive at the time why an image of a cow would be in an ice cube.  Therefore, I dismissed the image as a strange coincidence because I could not figure out why this image would be deliberately placed in an advertisement for hard liquor.  I remember seeing this same advertisement again at a later date and thinking how strange it was that this image in the ice cube looked like a cow’s head.  I never forgot the image and the name of the brand of liquor in the advertisement.

Later, in college, I stumbled upon a book about advertising.   While reading the book, I came to the realization that subliminal images are deliberately placed in print advertisements with the intent to increase sales.  A subliminal image is an image that is not readily detectable.  Subliminal images are deliberately placed in some print advertisements as distorted, illusory, or even anamorphic images.  These subliminal images are placed in print advertisements with the intent for the subliminal images to remain below the threshold of conscious perception.

This blog is a journey into the world of advertising, psychology, and the subconscious mind.

The purpose of this blog is to present advertisements that contain subliminal images in them.  This can be a challenge at times because subliminal images can be somewhat distorted in order to avoid immediate detection.  However, I believe that anyone can discover the subliminal images for themselves if a print advertisement is carefully looked at.  I challenge you, the reader of this blog, to analyze other ads, outside of this blog, for yourself and you might be surprised at what you will find.

The emphasis in this blog will be primarily on alcohol, food, and tobacco advertisements, because that is where many subliminal images can be found in print advertising.  Some of the images and facts that I present will, at times, be both amazing and disturbing.

I believe that there is a stigma attached to “subliminal advertising” because this subject matter has been categorized with conspiracy theories, urban legends, pareidolia, and overactive imaginations.  Some writers have handled this subject matter with sensationalism. This is unfortunate because subliminal advertising is a reality.  My goal is to be very objective with the facts that are presented.  Also, these facts will be well documented.  As far as the subliminal images go, I will present what others also confirm that they see in the print advertisements.  This way there is a general consensus on what subliminal images are seen.   When it comes to the interpretation of the meanings of print advertisements and the subliminal images, this will involve subjective observations.  You, the viewer might have a different interpretation concerning the meaning of the print advertisements and the subliminal images presented. 

Since advertisements are designed to reach the masses, there will be different interpretations.  For example, people interpret music lyrics in different ways.  However, the song remains the same.  With subliminal advertising, the meaning of the advertisement may be interpreted in different ways.  However, the purpose of advertising remains the same—to increase sales.

By the way, if you could not see the cow in the image above, here is a picture of the image of the cow in the ice cube next to a picture of a real cow. 

“Pictures, images and symbols convey far more information than words. They reach us on an intuitive level. We can understand images by making associations with them.”  - Rosemary Ellen Guiley

The purpose of placing subliminal images in an advertisement is to communicate to the subconscious mind of the viewers.  The subconscious mind speaks in images, feelings and metaphors.1  The goal of an advertiser, in utilizing the technique of subliminal advertising, is to increase sales. 

When I noticed the image of the cow in a liquor ad, I picked up on the image immediately without spending too much time looking at the print advertisement.  Also, I was able to remember the brand name of the advertised liquor many years later.

Here is the print advertisement where I saw the image of the cow in an ice cube:

Again, here is the picture of the image of the cow compared to a picture of a real cow:


An analysis into the meaning of a subliminal image begins with an association.  As stated in the introductory quote by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, "We can understand images by making associations with them."2

The association of the image of the cow, in this print advertisement, relates to hard liquor.

Now why would an image of a cow be in this ad?  What is the purpose of having an image of a cow in a hard liquor ad.

Cows are a symbol for love, nurturing, kindness, and generosity.3  Cows also represent a mother "in the way a mother cow protects and gives an abundant supply of milk {nurturing}."4

Now, replace the word "milk" with the word "gin."  In this ad, gin is symbolically associated with milk and the cow (Gordon's) represents a loving, nurturing, kind, and generous supplier of the milk (gin).

What is the target audience for selling hard liquor?

There are four basic categories of drinkers of hard liquor:

Social Drinker
Occasional Drinker
Binge Drinker
Heavy Drinker

Consider this:  Out of these four categories, who is the largest consumer of alcohol? Which target audience would this print advertisement be specifically geared to?