Jameson Irish Whiskey

Now it cuts like a knife
But it feels so right
Yeah! It cuts like a knife
Oh, but it feels so right
- From the song by Brian Adams, “Cuts Like A Knife”

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) ideas, imagery, and words 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) imagery, ideas, and words 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:

The first thing to be aware of is that this is not a photograph of a glass of whiskey, this is a piece of artwork.

According to author Craig Soderholm, "In almost every example of subliminal techniques it is important to notice that while ads use both photographs and artwork, agencies and advertisers will more often spend literally hundreds of times the cost of a photograph to instead use a painted representation.  The reason for this is that the subliminal can be imbedded in the painting in a much more subtle, cost-efficient, and effective presentation than in a photograph.”1


Look at the bottom of the glass of whiskey.  Do you see a disembodied head?

Take another look with the ad rotated:

Here is an outline of the disembodied head:

Here is a comparison of the subliminal image of the disembodied head with a picture of an actor:

Subliminal images of disembodied heads are very commonplace in many hard liquor ads.

What is the significance of having a disembodied head in a liquor ad?

The idiom “to go to someone's head” means that if an alcoholic drink goes to someone's head, it makes them feel drunk very quickly. 2

A disembodied head represents a drinker who has lost their head due to the heavy use of alcohol.

The idiom “to lose one’s head” means the following:

1.      To become confused or overly emotional about someone or something. 3
2.      To suddenly become very angry or upset 4
3.      To not have control of your emotions 5
4.      To behave irrationally or to lose one's self-control 6

This idiom “to lose one’s head” can describe someone who has lost control of their emotions due to an excessive use of alcohol.

Alcohol affects the limbic system.  The limbic system is believed to be the emotional center of the brain and is tasked with controlling emotions and behavior, and forming long-term memories.

Consumption of too much alcohol interrupts the electrical signals between synapses, where the drinker is unable to interpret information properly.

“The limbic system, which would typically keep our emotions in check, now subjects [the heavy drinker] to mood swings and exaggerated states. This can manifest itself as misunderstanding somebody’s intentions, misunderstanding or amplifying [the heavy drinker’s] own feelings, or simply saying something embarrassing or regrettable.” 7

An individual who consumes too much alcohol can possibly get into many situations where they will “lose their head” emotionally.


Now take a look at the bottom of the drinking glass:

Did you notice that the ridges at the bottom of the drinking glass are irregularly shaped? 

Most drinking glass bottom ridges have a consistent pattern.  The ridges in the glass in this advertisement don’t follow a consistent pattern.

Do you notice that the some of the ridges in the bottom of the glass look like kitchen knives?

Here is a comparison with a drawing of kitchen knives:

Now take a look at the following section of the ad showing the knives piercing the disembodied head:

What is the significance of having knives pierce the disembodied head?

It is common knowledge that a hangover can result with the overconsumption of alcohol.

One definition of a hangover is as follows:  An unpleasant feeling, such as a headache, occurring as an aftereffect from the use of alcohol. 8

A headache can be described as a sharp pain.

Concerning headaches, a "Sharp Pain in Head" means different things to different people. 9

“A Sharp Pain in Head”  may mean a stabbing pain in the head, like someone has taken a knife or needle and rammed it into the skull. 10

In this advertisement, the knives are piercing the disembodied head on only one side of the head.

Alcohol can trigger either a migraine or a cluster headache. 11

A migraine is a condition characterized by a severe throbbing headache experienced in only one side of the head12

A cluster headache is the most severe form of a primary headache that involves sudden, extremely painful headaches that occur in "clusters," They strike one side of the head13

Also, a cluster headache involves a severe throbbing, claw-like, or piercing pain that is felt on one side of the face14

Cluster headaches are common in people who smoke and drink alcohol excessively. 15

There are substances inside of alcohol that are responsible for causing a headache.

One of these substances is the amino acid tryramine – a well-known trigger for migraine or cluster headaches. Tyramine is found in dark alcoholic beverages like scotch, beer, and bourbon. 16

Congeners, a chemical found in some alcohols, can also cause headaches in some individuals. Congeners are believed to trigger headaches because they make slight changes to the chemical composition of the body. Hard liquors, especially darker, amber liquors, usually contain more congeners than lighter liquors. 17


This advertisement associates heavy drinking with losing one’s head (represented by the disembodied head).

This advertisement also associates heavy drinking with sharp, piercing headaches that are experienced on one side of the head (represented by knives piercing one side of the disembodied head).

It is important to keep in mind that the biggest consumer of alcohol is the heavy user of alcohol.

The top 5% of drinkers of alcohol account for 42% of the nation’s total alcohol consumption.18

About 17.6 million Americans abuse or are dependent on alcohol. 19

Jean Kilbourne, who is on the Board of Directors of the National Council on Alcoholism, states:

“Recognizing this important marketing fact, alcohol companies deliberately devise ads designed to appeal to heavy drinkers. Advertising is usually directed toward promoting loyalty and increasing usage, and heavy users of any product are the best customers. The heavy user of alcohol is usually an addict.” 20

Jean Kilbourne also states:

“These figures make it clear that if alcoholics were to recover - i.e., stop drinking - the alcoholic beverage industry's gross revenue would be cut in half. I can't believe that industry executives want that to happen. On the contrary, my 15-year study of alcohol advertising makes me certain that advertisers deliberately target the heavy drinker and devise ads designed to appeal to him or her. As with any product, the heavy user is the best customer. However, when the product is a drug, the heavy user is often an addict.”21


  1. The glass has the image of a woman with her top pulled down and we see her bare back, she is bent over

    1. Thank you for pointing that out. That is an amazing subliminal image.

  2. So, what you are saying is that Jameson is subliminally telling people not to drink their product. Really?

    I prefer the image mentioned above.