Parliament Ad #4

“There's a feeling I get when I look to the west, And my spirit is crying for leaving.”
- Led Zeppelin (Stairway to Heaven)

This is Part 4 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:

For this blog site, this entry is the fourth blog entry concerning Parliament Cigarette print advertisements.  The four Parliament ads presented are very simplistic in design and at first glance, the numbers in the artwork seem to relate to the ad copy concerning low-tar numbers.

Most people will perceive these advertisements, on a conscious level, as very simplistic ads and they will relate the numbers in the artwork to the low-tar numbers mentioned in the ad copy. 

At a conscious level, there is nothing unusual or offensive in these ads, so they are easily dismissed by the viewers.  Therefore, these advertisements, even when glanced over in a matter of seconds, go straight to the subconscious mind without counter-argument or resistance from the viewers.

However, on a subconscious level (subliminal), there is a more true, dark, and sinister meaning pertaining to cigarette smoking and death in these advertisements.



Each man is holding on to a number as they are being lifted from the earth.

These men represent smokers who have died.  Their spirits are now leaving the earth.

Each man has been assigned a number.  In this advertisement, the numbers are up in the air.

The numbers that are up in the air represent the idiom “one’s number is up.”

When someone’s number is up, it means that it is their time to die. 

2.    THE NUMBER 13:

In this advertisement, there are a total of 13 numbers that can be seen.

The number 13 is considered an unlucky number.  The number 13 is synonymous with bad luck. 1

Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of 13, a number commonly associated with bad luck in Western culture. 2


The colors in the background represent the evening twilight after sunset. 

Evening twilight is when “the sky generally remains somewhat bright and blue” and symbolizes the “shadowy border of death.” 4

“Evening-light is associated with the West, symbolizing the location of death.” 5

The sunset in the West has always been associated with the symbol of death. 6


Notice that the men are dressed in grey suits.  The backs of the suit jackets are black due to the shadows caused by the setting sun.

It is interesting to note that three main colors in this advertisement are black, gray, and navy blue, the three colors that are the most appropriate colors for funeral dress attire.

Grey suits are appropriate dress attire for a funeral service. 7

According to GQ Magazine, a black suit is best, dark grey next, then dark navy for a funeral. 8

Fashion expert Hendrik Pohl states: “If attending a religious service at a funeral home, church or graveside wear clothing that is tasteful and conservative. Good colors for conservative dress are black, navy and grey.” 9

According to Christonium, “The stylish and contemporary black, navy or charcoal grey suits are appropriate dress attire for a funeral service.” 10

In this advertisement, the men are all wearing black hats. 

One funeral custom in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s was that the men wore a black hat. 11

The men in this advertisement all have brown hair.  These are young men, there is no grey in their hair.  This shows that all of the men died young, before their time. 

It is interesting to note that “half of the heavy smokers die at middle age ranging from 25 years to 30 years.” 12

Smokers die a lot earlier than non-smokers. The limit is 13.2 years for men and 14.5 years for women. 13


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.” 14

“Each hue, tint, shade or tone has a specific, optical and psychological effect.” 15

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


In this advertisement, the numbers that the men are holding on to are white. 

“White depicts the pallor of someone who's ill, and, of course, the color of the corpse.  It also symbolizes the color of bones.” 16

The main color of a cigarette is white.

Americans and Europeans have used the color white for tombstones. 17

In this advertisement, the white numbers symbolize the unique numbers assigned to the grave markers (tombstones) for each of the smokers.


As mentioned earlier, the smokers in this advertisement are wearing gray suits.

According to author Faber Birren, “Grey is to be associated with depression and fear.” 18

Grey indicates separation, lack of involvement and ultimately loneliness. 19



Blue is the main color featured in this advertisement.

The color blue is a color that is associated with a feeling of sadness and depression.20

Dark blue evokes feelings of sadness. 21


On a physiological level, “blue causes a drop in blood pressure which may in time be trailed by an accelerated reaction.” 22

A recent study conducted by the  Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania showed that, “the color blue can slow down the rate of your pulse and lower body temperature.” 23

The color blue also “causes a decrease in breathing.” 24

As daylight signals begin to fade, the body clock cuts back on the active, energetic hormones. Within a few hours, body temperature begins to fall and people begin to wind down. 25


When a person dies, there “is a dramatic drop in blood pressure resulting in very cold hands and feet.” 26  The hands and feet turn blue. 27

“When the heart stops, the blood stops circulating and gravity makes it settle. This makes the areas where the blood has settled turn dark blue.” 28


The color black is seen in this advertisement with the hats and the shadows on the suit jackets of the men.

According to author Faber Birren, “Black is absolute rest, the sleep of death.” 29

Black is the traditional color of “funerals, death, mourning.” 30



According to a report by the World Health Organization: “To sell a product that kills up to half of all its users requires extraordinary marketing savvy. Tobacco manufacturers are some of the best marketers in the world.” 31

According to author Martin Lindstrom, “I’m not saying companies aren’t smart. Some, like the tobacco companies, are scarily smart.” 32

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.” 33

Cigarette smoking causes about 1 out of every 5 deaths in the United States each year. 34

Worldwide, approximately one person dies every six seconds due to tobacco (one in 10 adult deaths). 35

“Tobacco has killed 50 million people in the last 10 years, and tobacco is responsible for more than 15 percent of all male deaths and 7 percent of female deaths.” 36

By 2030, the number of deaths from smoking and the chewing of tobacco will rise to 10 million deaths per year (worldwide). 37