Parliament Ad #3

“…we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust;”
- 1789 U.S. Book of Common Prayer

This is Part 3 of the Parliament print advertisement series.

The practice of placing subliminal themes 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, subliminal themes can be placed in print advertisements without immediate detection.

Color Psychology is also used by advertisers to create an effect on the subconscious 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.

With this in mind, look closely at this advertisement and see if you can discover the subliminal theme:


There are five men dressed in brown looking at numbers in the ground.

In this advertisement, the numbers symbolize open graves (holes in the ground for burial).

These five men represent smokers who are rapidly approaching the end of their lives.  Each man is “one step away from the grave”.

The numbers that are next to four of the five men are the smokers’ designated numbers (3, 6, 10, 12).  The number assigned to the fifth man in the foreground is unknown because all that can be seen is the man’s head and upper body.  It will just be a matter of time before the smokers’ numbers are up and they are laid to rest in their graves.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “When your number is up, you are going to die.” 1

The idiom “Number is up” means “One is doomed, ruined, finished; one is dead or about to die.” 2

The orange, yellow, and white colors in the background represent a sunset.

A sunset “has always been associated with the symbol of death.” 3

The sunset can symbolize someone’s death or overthrow. 4

A dictionary definition of overthrow is “to bring about the downfall or destruction of, especially by force or concerted action.” 5

The effects of smoking have overthrown the health of the smokers to the point of death.


The men portrayed in this advertisement are in their “Autumn of Life.”

The Autumn of Life “refers to the last portion of one's life. It is a metaphor which likens one's life to the season when the time for planting, growing, and flowering is over, when the temperatures begin to drop, and the days become shorter. The leaves on the trees drop, and the natural world edges toward dormancy. It is the time when one's death is closer than one's birth.” 6


Through color psychology, in this print advertisement, colors associations with death are presented at a subliminal level.

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

“Each hue, tint, shade or tone has a specific, optical and psychological effect.” 7

“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.” 8


It is interesting that the main colors included in this advertisement (orangeyellowwhitebrownblack) are all associated with cigarettes:

A standard cigarette has an orange colored tipping paper, with yellow spots, that cover the tipping paper. 

The cigarette filter is always white; it gets yellow/orange when someone smokes the cigarette. 9

The dried tobacco leaves used for the filler are brown.  The rolling paper used to cover the filler is white.

Here is an interesting observation:

“A great way to observe how bad cigarettes are for your lungs, is to take a good look at the tip of a used cigarette filter and note the orange and brown/black resin/tar stain left behind in it. Those same stains are in the lungs of the smoker.” 10

When a cigarette is extinguished, the color of the ashes is mostly black.

Here is a picture of the end of the life of a cigarette after it is extinguished (ashes to ashes):



In this ad, the color orange can be seen in the sunset and on the ground.

Orange is the color of fall and harvest. 11  The color orange can be found in nature in the fall season, autumn leaves, and a sunset. 12

The color orange relates to the smokers’ last season of life (August of Life).


In this ad, the color yellow can be seen in the sunset and on the ground.

The psychological properties of yellow include “Irrationality, fear, emotional fragility, depression, anxiety, suicide.” 13

The color yellow can be anxiety producing as it is fast moving and can cause people to feel agitated. 14

Yellow can also “lead to nervousness and emotional instability.” 15

The color yellow connotes “caution, warning of hazards and hazardous substances.” 16

Yellow can also bring on feelings of fear. 17


In this advertisement, the color of the sun is white.  Also, white is the color of the section of the sunset closest to the horizon.

The color “white can be cold, isolating and empty.” 18

White can cause feelings of isolation and emptiness. 19

The color white connotes: death, cold, and clinical. 20


In this ad, the holes in the ground are different shades of brown.

Brown is the color of the earth 21 and a common color of dirt and soil (earth to earth…dust to dust).

The color brown is a neutral color yet represents earthiness, depth. 22

“Brown can also be associated with withholding emotion and retreating from the world.” 23

In this ad, brown is the color of the clothing that the men are wearing.

The “best clothing color options for a funeral will always be black or dark brown. These two conservatives, muted, colors are excellent choices that…maintain the somber dignity that an event like a funeral demands.” 24

Brown can create feelings of sadness and isolation. 25

Dark brown is strong, yet sad and depressive. 26

Brown can also be sad and wistful. 27


Notice that the man in the foreground is wearing a black hat whereas the other four men are wearing brown hats.

As mentioned previously in the color brown section, the “best clothing color options for a funeral will always be black or dark brown.” 28

One funeral custom in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s involved men wearing a black hat. 29

The color black is also in seen as shadows in the holes in the ground (graves).

Black represents funerals, death, mourning. 30

The color black is the universal symbol of death. 31

Black connotes: fear, evil, sadness, remorse, mourning, and death. 32

The color black also represents “oppression, coldness, menace, heaviness.” 33

Notice the curvature of the horizon.  This curvature of the horizon outlines the planet earth where many people, who are going to die from the effects of smoking, will soon be facing their graves.

For a further explanation as to why an association with death and cigarettes would be presented in a cigarette print advertisement, read the above link in this blog entitled “Tobacco Advertising.”


Recent results from a 50-year study “found that almost half of all persistent cigarette smokers were killed by their habit, and a quarter died before age 70.” 34

Cigarette smoking causes about 1 out of every 5 deaths in the United States each year. 35

Wordwide, approximately one person dies every six seconds due to tobacco (one in 10 adult deaths). 36