Sunday, January 24, 2010

Subliminal Advertising - Fact or Fiction?

Most Baby Boomers are quite familiar with the term. And until today, while doing some research, I believe it all. But now, with the new input, I'm not so certain. Here's what I discovered.

In 1957, market researcher James Vicary claimed that quickly flashing messages on a movie screen, in Fort Lee, New Jersey, had influenced people to purchase more food and drinks. Vicary coined the term subliminal advertising and formed the Subliminal Projection Company based on a six-week test. Vicary claimed that during the presentation of the movie Picnic he used a tachistoscope to project the words "Drink Coca-Cola" and "Hungry? Eat popcorn" for 1/3000 of a second at five-second intervals. Vicary asserted that during the test, sales of popcorn and Coke in that New Jersey theater increased 57.8 percent and 18.1 percent respectively.

It was later revealed, however, that Vicary lied about the experiment. He admitted to falsifying the results, and an identical experiment conducted by Dr. Henry Link showed no increase in cola or popcorn sales. This has led people to believe that Vicary actually did not conduct his experiment at all.

Vicary's claims were promoted in Vance Packard's book The Hidden Persuaders, and led to a public outcry, and to many conspiracy theories of governments and cults using the technique to their advantage. The practice of subliminal advertising was subsequently banned in the United Kingdom and Australia, and by American networks and the National Association of Broadcasters in 1958.

But in 1958, Vicary conducted a television test in which he flashed the message "telephone now" hundreds of times during a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation program, and found no increase in telephone calls. In 1962, Vicary admitted that he fabricated his claim, the story itself being a marketing ploy. Efforts to replicate the results of Vicary's reports have never resulted in success.

Apparently, advertisers continue to use this type of persuasion in their print ads. Or, is it possible that we are just finding things there that weren't actually intended? I'm not sure. But here's a site with a lot of images you might find interesting.

1 comment:

Warren Whitlock said...

It's all a game. There aren't any rules.

The only question is.. who's game is it to make up the game?