Kent Ad

“Research has shown that consciously we assign no importance to symbols, but unconsciously we are deeply affected by them.  The psychological powers of basic images and colors are difficult for most people to comprehend fully, because these powers operate in the realm of the unconscious.” – Louis Cheskin

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 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) ideas, imagery, and words in advertisements. 

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.

With this in mind, look closely at this advertisement and see if you notice anything interesting:

Look at this advertisement again and pay attention to the colors.

The main colors in this ad are dark brown, dull gold, light brown, green, tan, and white.

Interestingly, these are colors that are associated with cigarettes and tobacco:

Dark Brown:          Tobacco
Dull Gold:              Specks on light brown filters
Light Brown:          Filter / Tobacco
Green:                    Fresh tobacco leaves
Tan:                       Tobacco after it has dried
White:                    Cigarette rolling paper / tipping paper for filter

Tobacco leaves can be either green or brown:

Fresh tobacco is green when it comes off the plant. Tobacco has a brown / tan appearance after it has dried. 1

“Brown is a predominant color on the planet, along with green. Brown is comforting and stabilizing, while green is balancing and rejuvenating, just what we all need to help us deal with the stresses of modern life.” 2

The most common paper wrapping for cigarettes is white.

Cigarette filter papers are various colors depending on the brand and the manufacturer of the cigarettes.

“Many cigarette filters are white. They turn yellow-brown (tan) from the tar after the cigarette has been smoked.” 3


Advertisers understand that colors can dramatically influence mood, emotion, and behavior.

“This information on color and image preference (appeal), retention in the memory and on associations of specific images and colors, is based on tests that have been conducted with many thousands of individuals since 1935.” 4

According to Louis Cheskin, the founder of the Color Research Institute:

“Color effect is on an unconscious level.  People are not aware that they are affected by color or how they are affected by specific colors.  Experiments and tests with colors…have shown that each specific color has a distinct psychological effect on people.  A color has a direct effect on an individual’s emotions.” 5

Color psychology is the study of color as a determinant of human behavior and is concerned with the influence of color on mood, emotion, and behavior.

In this Kent advertisement, the colors were intentionally chosen to affect mood, emotion, and behavior.

Here are the psychological meanings for the colors that were chosen for this ad:

“Brown brings to mind feeling of warmthcomfort, and security. It is often described as natural, down-to-earth.” 6  Brown is “sensitive and warm, engulfing one in a feeling of calmness and comfort.” 7

 “Gold is a warm color that can be…dull, muted and traditional. Dull gold with “the darker muted shades are deep, warm and intense.” 8 
“Gold symbolizes energy, warmth, cheer, joy.” 9

“Green represents tranquility and health.  Green is often used in decorating for its calming effect.  Green is thought to relieve stress and help heal.” 10

“The color tan can mean “quiet, pleasantness, calm, more rich and warm than white.” 11

“White is a color of protection and encouragement, offering a sense of peace and calmcomfort and hope, helping alleviate emotional upsets.” 12

Did you notice that the most common associations represented by these colors are calm, comfort, and warmth?

These are the exact associations that the advertiser wants smokers to relate to so that they will continue to smoke.

“Smokers often say that lighting up a cigarette can calm their nerves…and help them feel energized.” 13 “For many it helps them cope with the stress and frustration of daily schedules and promotes relaxation and calm.” 14

“A lot of people still smoke because of the comfort and relief that smoking gives them.” 15

According to Spanish filmmaker Luis Buneul, “I love to touch the pack in my pocket, open it, savor the feel of the cigarette between my fingers, the paper on my lips, the taste of tobacco on my tongue. I love to watch the flame spurt up, love to watch it come closer and closer, filling me with its warmth.” 16

The colors in this Kent advertisement have been intentionally chosen for this ad in order to have a subliminal effect on the viewers.  However, the colors are not the only subliminal part of this advertisement. 


Take another look at this section of the Kent advertisement.  Do you see anything else interesting?

The chances are good that the first part of the ad that is looked at is the woman’s face. This would be the focal point of the advertisement.  The man is also looking towards the woman which draws the viewer’s attention to the woman also.

The woman is the one smoking and she appears to be very poised and confident.  Notice the fence that the woman is leaning on. Wooden fencing is a symbol of security. 17

Now take a close look at the fence post.  The man is leaning on the fence post with his arm.  Also, the woman is leaning on the fence post.

Do you notice how the fence post looks like it is coming out of the Kent cigarette pack, making it appear to be a very large cigarette?  The fence post has been transformed into a King Size cigarette indeed! 

The man and the woman are both leaning on the strength (security) of the cigarette (fence post).

With the chosen colors and the subliminal cigarette (fence post), an effective print advertisement has been created that completely revolves around cigarettes.

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