“Ads are not meant for conscious consumption. They are intended as subliminal pills for the subconscious in order to exercise an hypnotic spell,” - Marshall McLuhan

Look at the ad below and see if you find anything interesting in this print advertisement:

The name “ABSOLUT VODKA” has been placed within the ice cubes in the glass.  The subject of “subliminal advertising” is obviously made light of in this print advertisement. 

The purpose of this blog is to bring credibility to the fact that ideas, images, and words have been deliberately placed in designated print advertisements at a subliminal level.

Unfortunately, the subject of subliminal advertising has been somewhat tainted with a negative connotation.  A big part of this perception is the sensationalized manner in which the subject of subliminal advertising has been presented.  The goal of this blog is to give the subject of subliminal advertising credibility by presenting examples that can be perceived by the majority of the viewers of this blog.

Let’s take a look at two opposing viewpoints from two professionals concerning subliminal advertising.


Bob Garfield has written a column, called AdReview, for Advertising Age for 25 years.  His AdReview column “evaluated, vetted, parsed, deconstructed and offered uncanny prognostications for thousands of ads from hundreds of agencies worldwide based on such criteria as strategy, communication, taste, ethics, brand relevance, cultural relevance and craftsmanship.” 1

Bob Garfield has written the following books:

1)    The Chaos Scenario
2)    And Now a Few Words From Me
3)    Waking Up Screaming From the American Dream

In one of his columns about subliminal advertising, Bob Garfield writes:

“Here we go again. Thanks to the unfortunate nexus of urban legend and sleazy campaign tactics, the public is once again invited to believe in subliminal advertising...People believe that stuff actually happens. And why wouldn't they? They also believe in Sasquatch, Atlantis and alien corpses in Roswell, N.M. They believe in vast, sinister conspiracies. They believe in the flat tax, the I Ching and the fundamental plausibility of "The X-Files." Most preposterously of all, if you happen to labor in the marketing world, they believe you are a wizard who can manipulate them at will.” 2      

"Ha! Snort! Oh my sides! As we know, just between us, most of y'all have difficulty getting a 2% increase in sales with the help of $50 million in media and extremely liminal images of sex, money, power and other putatively motivating forces of human emotion. The very idea of you as Satan's puppeteers, cruelly pulling the strings of consumer marionettes, is almost too much to bear." 3


Martin Lindstrom is a 2009 recipient of TIME magazine’s “World's 100 Most Influential People” 4  He is also “a trusted advisor to numerous Fortune 100 companies including McDonald’s Corporation, PepsiCo, Nestlé, American Express, Microsoft Corporation, The Walt Disney Company and GlaxoSmithKline, amongst others. His personal global audience is estimated at over a million people.” 5

Martin Lindstrom has written the following books:

1)    Clicks, Bricks, & Brands
2)    Brand Building on the Internet
3)    Brand Child
4)    Brand Sense
5)    buy∙ology
6)    Brandwashed

Concerning subliminal advertising, here is what Martin Lindstrom has written:

“Does subliminal advertising take place? (Yes, and it probably influenced what you picked up at the convenience store the other day.)” 6

Who is the more credible source?

Here is something to keep in mind concerning Bob Garfield:

According to a speaker information summary on Bob Garfield for the Borrell Associates Local Online Advertising Conference, “Bob Garfield has never worked in advertising or marketing a day in his life. He has no relevant education, experience or data.” 7

Here is something to keep in mind concerning Martin Lindstrom:

According to Morgan Spurlock, director of Super Size Me and the Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Martin Lindstrom “aims to expose all that goes on in the subterranean world of marketing and advertising.  Only he has one distinct advantage.  He’s a true insider.” 8


In a study conducted by Zanot, Pincus, and Lamp, 81 percent of the subjects (209 adults) had heard of subliminal advertising and that the "respondents believe that subliminal advertising is widely and frequently used and that it is successful in selling products." 9

This same study also showed that educational level is highly correlated with the awareness of subliminal advertising.  The more educated the subject, the more likely he or she was aware of subliminal advertising. 10

Another study by Rogers and Smith found that “the more education a person has (and therefore the more opportunity to learn of the limitations of the subliminal persuasion phenomenon), the more likely one is to believe that subliminal advertising 'works.’” 11

Subliminal advertising does exist and it is a method of advertising that is being utilized in order to influence purchasing decisions.  Although the degree of influence is  debatable, the fact remains that an enormous amount of money, research, and artistry has been invested in order to incorporate subliminal imagery, words, and ideas into designated print advertisements.  Also, thanks to recent advances in neuroimaging, there is  growing evidence that shows that physiological responses to subliminal stimuli occur in the human mind on a subconscious level. 

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