Subliminal Advertising essay

subliminal advertising 1

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In 1957, Vanace Packard changed the dynamics of advertising when heargued that the public is being manipulated using concepts ofpsychology to influence or motivate their choices, purchase of goods,and brand preferences (Samuel, 2010). In this case, advertisersprogram the mind of consumers through both conscience and unconsciousstatements and messages. In essence, these messages are as subliminalmessages and used to explain the way in, which a person can makesubconscious decisions based on the messages (images and pictures)placed on a certain brand. The paper offers a discussion on theeffectiveness on subliminal advertising on consumers. In addition, ithighlights how physiological concepts influence consumer choices(Key, 2000).

Psychologists such as Packard and Wilson Bryan Key states thatadvertisers use theories of psychology to understand how the mind ofdifferent consumer demographic work when selecting a commodity. Ifanything, this form of marketing applies to politics, religion, andbusiness. In 1956, a study of a New Jersey movie house revealed thatwhen flash images of ice cream on the screen, the sale of ice creamincreased significantly (Kirkpatrick, 2007). As such, showing theimage and picture of a product can influence a consumer to purchaseit more and make the product his or her preferred brand. However,consumers have the ability to choose not to react to theadvertisement. Later on, in 1957, an experiment conducted by Vicaryexplained how a New Jersey theater displayed the wordings (EatPopcorn) and (Drink Coke) on the cinema screen subliminally. Theexperiment indicated that sales of the two products increased from18% to 58% (Karremans, et al, 2006). However, Vicary later admittedthat he manipulated the experiment making the results lackcredibility. With that said, this did not deter the research and useof subliminal advertising in marketing (Karremans, et al, 2006).

Though there is extensive research to show that subliminaladvertising may have an effect on consumers, a large percentage ofexperts in both psychology and advertising criticize this theorystating that, there is not much empirical evidence to show how theadvertisement manipulates the mind of individuals by the placement ofhidden images or inscriptions in a print advertisement. In thiscase, marketers introduce to a person under the conscious orthreshold state. However, it is the unconscious mind, which noticesthe stimuli. Research goes on to explain that there are two types ofthresholds namely the subjective (conscious awareness) and objective(sensory). Hence, if stimuli passed through the objective thresholdand not the subjective one, the reaction will be subliminal giventhat the stimuli are subliminal (Beatty &amp Hawkins, 1989). Overthe years, the level of public interest on the topic in question hasresulted in the change of the way in which businesses advertise theirproducts and services. Ideally, while people recognize thatadvertisements influence their decisions, they further recognize thatmessages in the adverts may motivate their reaction (Key, 2000).

To conclude, subliminal advertising persuades an individual to buyproducts because they are motivated to feel thirsty or hungry.However, a large percentage of critics dispute the notion thatadvertisers use hidden messages to a degree considering that theconscience mind may not even notice the message. If anything,messages have to be communicated clearly for an audience to noticeits contents. Future research will concentrate on the role of theinternet in subliminal advertising.


Beatty, S. E., &amp Hawkins, D. I. (1989). Subliminal Stimulation:Some New Data and Interpretation. Journal of Advertising,18(3), 4–8.

Karremans, J. C., Stroebe, W., &amp Claus, J. (2006). BeyondVicary’s fantasies: The impact of subliminal priming and brandchoice. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 42(6),792–798

Key, W. B. (2000). The Mass Media`s Illusion of Reality. Advertising&amp Society Review 1(1), Advertising Educational Foundation.Retrieved from Project MUSE database.

Kirkpatrick, J. (2007). In defense of advertising: Arguments fromreason, ethical egoism, and laissez-faire capitalism. Place ofpublication not identified: TLJ Books.

Samuel, L. R. (2010). Freud on Madison Avenue: Motivation researchand subliminal advertising in America. Philadelphia: Universityof Pennsylvania Press