Gilbey's Gin

“If there's one thing that every marketing and advertising pro retained from Business 101 class, it's that sex sells.”
- Emily Friedman

The practice of placing hidden (subliminal) words 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) words, ideas, and imagery 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) words, ideas, and imagery 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 advertisement and see if you notice anything interesting:


Read the following sentence: 

Look vrey csleoly at the avboe aiserdmetnvst and you mhgit fnid an itnietsnreg wrod taht has been hedidn in the ice cebus at a saubnlimil level.

We can read a sentence of words with the letters all mixed up as long as the first and the last letter of the word are correct.

So often, all we need in order to recognize a word is to be able to recognize a few of the letters.

When we scan through pages in a magazine, we not only see and process words in our periphery, but we can also scan and extract meaning from words outside of our periphery as well.

Do you see a word in the glass to the right of the Gilbey’s Gin bottle?

Look closely to the left of the lime.  Do you see the letter “S”:

Underneath the letter “S” is the letter “E”:

Underneath the letter “E” is the letter “X”:

Although the letters are somewhat distorted, the word “SEX” has been placed in this advertisement.  The word “SEX” in this advertisement is presented at a subliminal level in order to bypass the viewer’s defense mechanisms on a conscious level.  The word “SEX” is an emotionally charged word that is full of meaning, associations, imagery, and emotional connotations.  


According to Dr. Robert Heath, “Recent experiments have apparently shown that words exposed subliminally, even if not perceived, can be conceptualized, and can cause us to manifest the same feelings as would be created if they were exposed at normal levels.  So, for example, if we are shown the word “rapist” at a subliminal level then apparently it can be shown that we generate the same type of emotional responses as we would experience if the word were visible.” 1

Concerning the shocking effect of certain words, Martin Haracz states: 

 “Advertisers know this very well and will carefully choose certain words to make the viewer feel a certain way.  The purpose of this feeling or emotion created in the viewer, is to trigger them into further action (i.e. purchase of a product).” 2

“Other words which are especially effective at grabbing a person’s attention are the words “s---, “f---”, and “sex”.  These words also tend to have a shocking effect and can be used to arouse a person and lower their defenses, prepping them for a persuasion attempt.” 3


Many experiments have been conducted in psychological research, with a tachistoscope, in order to test the responsiveness to words presented at a subliminal level.  A tachistoscope is a device that can present visual stimuli (like a word or picture) for controlled durations of time.  This device can flash words that can’t be consciously recognized, but are subconsciously recognized.

Here are four different studies involving responses to words presented, at a subliminal level, to the subjects:


In an experiment involving the tachistoscope, conducted by Leo Postman, Jerome S. Bruner, and Elliott McGinnies, it was discovered that sexual words and other taboo words took longer to process than neutral words. 4


In another study, Dr. Robert E. Corrigan and Professor Hal C. Becker conducted research where three different types of words (neutral, emotional impact, obscene) were rapidly projected on a screen.  Here is a description of the findings:

“In repeated trials, the speed at which each word was flashed on the screen was slowed until the person being tested could say that he had definitely had seen it.  The researchers found that the emotional and obscene words had to be shown two or three times slower than the neutral words before people watching the screens could recognize them.  Corrigan and Becker took this as firm evidence that the people were resisting and censoring upsetting words.” 5


Elliot McGinnies conducted a study involving the use of a tachistoscope and galvanic skin response.  Galvanic skin response is the where there is a change in the ability of the skin of the subject to conduct electricity.  In this experiment, the subjects were exposed to neutral words and critical words (emotionally charged) and their galvanic skin responses were recorded.  Here is a summary of the findings:

“The observers reacted with GSR’s of significantly greater magnitude during the pre-recognition presentation of the critical words than they did before recognizing the neutral words.” 6

“The stimulus word serves as a cue to deeply imbedded anxiety which is revealed in autonomic reactivity as measured by the GSR.  Avoidance of further anxiety is contemporaneously aroused in the form of perceptual defense against recognition of the stimulus object.” 7

In other words, the subjects of this experiment experienced a form of anxiety, which was evidenced by the galvanic skin response, when the critical word (emotionally charged) was presented to the subject at a subliminal level.  The words were subconsciously recognized and then a perceptual defense mechanism blocked the emotionally charged words from readily emerging into consciousness.


In a more recent study conducted by Lionel Naccache and his colleagues, the effects of the subliminal presentation of emotional words to patients were recorded with the use of intracranial recordings and functional MRI.  In this study, the researchers “had the opportunity to record local responses from the human amygdala, a neural structure that responds to fearful or threatening stimuli presented in various modalities, including written words.” 8 Here is what was included with the summary of this study:

“In summary, our results indicate that the emotional content of subliminal words modulates amygdala activity within the same regions that are also involved in the conscious evaluation of emotional words.” 9


Think about this: as a viewer flips through the pages of a magazine and briefly scans the print advertisements, this functions in a way similar to a projection tachistoscope.

It is important to remember that, on average, people look at a print ad for no more than two seconds.

If this Gilbey’s Gin advertisement is viewed briefly, in it's entirety, while a viewer is flipping through the pages of a magazine, then it is possible that the word “SEX’ in this advertisement will be registered by the viewer, on a subconscious level,  just like a word would be subconsciously registered by a test subject in a psychological experiment involving a tachistoscope. 


Since the word “SEX” is an emotionally charged word, the majority of viewers will put up a perceptual defense mechanism that will either delay or completely prohibit the word from reaching conscious perception.  However, the word “SEX” and the Gilbey’s Gin brand name will still reach the subconscious mind of the viewers and an association will be formed.

Even if this advertisement is viewed for a longer period of time, the word “SEX” will still avoid immediate detection by the majority of viewers.  This is due to the perceptual defense of the viewers concerning emotionally charged words.  Plus, on average, people look at a print advertisement for no more than two seconds.  This leaves the opportunity wide open for some advertisers to place emotionally charged words and images in print advertisements, at a subliminal level, without immediate detection.


Another interesting area of subliminal perception involves Peripheral Exposure.  Peripheral Exposure is the area outside of the foveal region (defined as the area where detail is visible) and the parafoveal region (defined as the area where objects and words can be easily recognized. 

For example, if a reader of a magazine is reading an article on the left side of an open magazine while ignoring the ad to the right of the open magazine, the ignored ad still registers in the subconscious mind.

“Recognition is possible within the peripheral region, but it is difficult if not impossible to pay active attention to anything seen peripherally.” 10

In 1997, a study was conducted by Stewart Shapiro to investigate the effect of peripheral exposure of advertising.  In this study, ads for organic carrots and a can-opener were “embedded in the left-hand column of three columns of type on a computer, so as to look like a magazine.” 11

The group of volunteers for this study were asked to read only the center column of the magazine.  The researchers found that in the group where the ads had been present a much likelihood of buying carrots and a can-opener was expressed, even though the ads had only been exposed to their peripheral vision.” 12

The researchers concluded:

“Our findings indicate that an advertisement has the potential to affect future buying decisions even if subjects, who are preoccupied by another task, do not process the ad attentively and, thus, do not recollect ever having seen the ad.” 13

This study shows that it “isn’t just those things in advertising you look directly at that can affect your behavior.” 14


  1. Are you trying to subliminally persuade you're readers to buy books?

  2. Yeah, I do have an overriding urge to buy books for some reason. Strange. Also, I believe the Tashitoscope has been debunked as an effective tool for subliminal suggestion, hasn't it? By the way, what do you think of Wilson Bryan Key's work on this subject? I personally feel he was way too influenced by freud, because everything was sex with him, even when it wasn't exactly clear what he was pointing out.

  3. Btw, I'm not sure this particular ad is subliminal, seeing as the SEX in the glass just jumped out at me, even before your analysis of it. It may have been meant to be seen peripherally, and not so much an imbed to be looked at directly? Because the sex there is obvious.

  4. I've also heard that a woman's face is supposed to be in the bottom ice looking towards the bottle cap, that the reflection of the bottle looks like a man's legs with the well, "reproductive organ that would be at the intersection", and a winking face in the top ice cube. The "sex" I see now its been pointed out, but I'm not sure about the others...

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. If there is a woman in the glass, for there certainly is a humanoid figure, ajd if the neck of the gin bottle is phallic, then, since the leaf makes a shielf and the stirrer makes a baton, tbis would seem to insinuate that this brand of alcohol, or alcohol in general, will make a woman "let down her guard", the feeling is conveyed that she's powerless against the bottle. That would also explain the "sex".

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