Monday, September 24, 2007

All-Bran's subliminal advertising

This summer Kellogg released a creative, new commercial for All-Bran that takes on a sensitive topic (i.e. regularity) with subtle humor.

Watch it for yourself on YouTube and notice the striking visual metaphors!

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2 comments:

Brian Feldman said...

Great commercial. Any idea who directed it?

patrik said...

The Hoax - 50 Years of Subliminal Advertising!

There are few stories in the area of marketing that have come to be as widespread and well known as the "Coca Cola - Subliminal Advertising" story. Here you can read a brief summary of the story and the blatant lies behind it. The story goes like:

"This advertising specialist, Mr Vicary, comes up with a brilliant idea and inserts a brief advertising message into a movie but the message is so short that it will not be perceived consciously. The message "Drink Coke" and "Eat popcorn" constitutes a subliminal advertising message and is received by the audience at a sub-treshold level. In the pause, the sales of Coke and popcorn increased dramatically." End of Story.

This story is every now and then surfacing in media or among the general public, it can be heard from students, marketing researchers, advertisers and sadly enough, by many professors and professional researchers. What few know is that the "Jim Vicary Hoax" might as well be dubbed the No. 1 Myth in Marketing. It is by far the most well known phenomenon related to marketing that people in general knows about. And that they think is true. Nonetheless, the concept of "Subliminal advertising" is unsubstantiated. (See references below)

Jim Vicary whose advertising agency, at the time, was not doing very well came up with the "experiment" and claimed that he had succeeded in advertising Coke and popcorn in an ingenious way. However, later when he was challenged and could not replicate or even produce the results, Vicary admitted that the results of the initial study had been fabricated (Weir, 1984). Furthermore, later studies have never produced any scientific evidence of the phenomenon, on the contrary (Moore, 1982, Rogers & Seiler, 1994, Percy & Elliot, 2005).

Then, what is this so called "Subliminal advertising" all about? "Subliminal advertising" is defined as advertising that employs stimuli operating below the threshold of consciousness. It is supposed to influence the recipient's behaviour without him/her being aware of any communication taking place. However, fact is that since the message is communicated below the treshold then this is equivalent to no input at all. The human attention system is not constructed in such a way that it can receive and make sense out of messages that has such a short time span.

Those talking about the Subliminal effect are mixing things up! It is worth to notice that one should not, like many do, confuse the term subliminal with unawareness. Unawareness of the impact of an advertisment is something completely different than the "Subliminal"-concept. For instance, a person may read an article in a newspaper and next to the text is an advertisement for a product. Now, in this case the reader will be exposed to the advertisement perhaps even for minutes and the peripheral vision will capture parts of what is advertised as the eyes of the reader is being scanned back and forth over the text for a long period of time and also covering the ad at times. Clearly this does not have anything to do with the claimed "subliminal effect" but when studying the advocates of "Subliminal advertising" some are confusing Subliminal with unconscious. Another example frequently used is the small ice cube lady in a glass of whishy or any other drink. In this case some are arguing that it is "Subliminal advertising". A notion that is somewhat difficult to understand. In cases like this the small pinup girl wearing bikini in the glass is clearly visible if you take the time and look. So in what sense is that "Subliminal advertising"? And what do the advocates of "Subliminal advertising" expect to happen? That the customer runs and buys a bikini?

So why has "Subliminal advertising" gotten so much attention then? To understand that, things has to be put into context. There may actually be some answers.
a) The book "The hidden persuaders" by Vance Packard from the end of the fifties was successful in stirring up peoples feelings. In his book he is sketching how consumers are manipulated, with advertising, into a consumption prison to the benefit of the companies.
b) During this era, 50s - 60s, when the cold war was raging and senator McCarthy was at his peak some people and some organizations were very concerned about whether methods like "Subliminal advertising" and the like could be used for political propaganda as a hidden weapon.
c) During the 60s, 70s and up to the mid 80s the concept of hypnosis and subconscious effects were widely popular. Perhaps you may even remember TV-shows from this time where psychologists or "magicians" were hypnothising people live making them do funny things. "Subliminal advertising" fit very well into this time.
d) "Subliminal advertising" is interesting because it tickles our imagination! The very concept of "Subliminal advertising" challenges our free will. It is manipulating us and worst of all, it is obscured or hidden so we do not know if or even when we have been subjected to it... and that may perhaps be the number one reason why this marketing myth is still alive and continuous drawing attention to itself.

This year (2007) it is 50 years since Jim Vicary conducted his infamous "experiment". Today Vicary's story has unfortunately developed into folklore. But what is worse is that the general public as a consequence of this has a serious misperception of marketing and advertising.

//

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© Copyright 2007: Stics. This article may not be re-produced (in full or part) in any format/media off-line or Internet based, without prior permission from Stockholm Institute of Communication Science.

Find more on this topic in the following references:

Sheri J. Broyles, (2006), "Subliminal Advertising and the Perpetual Popularity of Playing to People’s Paranoia." Journal of Consumer Affairs, Vol. 40 Issue 2, p392-406

Dichter, Ernst (2007), "It was rubbish then, it's rubbish now" Advertising Age; 9/10/2007, Vol. 78 Issue 36

Moore, Timothy E. (1982). Subliminal Advertising: What You See Is What You Get. Journal of Marketing. 38-47.

Rogers, Martha; Seiler, Christine A. (1994), "The answer is no: A national survey of advertising industry practitioners and their clients about whether they use subliminal advertising", Journal of Advertising Research, Mar/Apr, Vol. 34 Issue 2

Weir, Walter (1984), "Another Look at Subliminal 'Facts'.", Advertising Age.