RE: Subliminal advertising

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Thu Apr 18 2002 - 14:06:51 BST

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    From: Vincent Campbell <>
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    Subject: RE: Subliminal advertising
    Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2002 14:06:51 +0100
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    I rest my case.

    Going "Sure!" is not an informed, evidence based argument.


    > ----------
    > From: Richard Brodie
    > Reply To:
    > Sent: Wednesday, April 17, 2002 18:45 PM
    > To:
    > Subject: Subliminal advertising
    > FYI, here is the section of _Virus of the Mind_ in which I briefly discuss
    > "subliminal advertising":
    > -------------------------
    > Scares have abounded in recent years about so-called "subliminal"
    > advertising. The idea is that unscrupulous marketeers have put hidden
    > images, voices, or symbols into their ads for the purpose of manipulating
    > people into buying products that they otherwise wouldn't buy. The story
    > goes
    > that one liquor company had an artist airbrush the word "sex" into the
    > random arrangement of ice cubes in a glass, or that a cigarette
    > manufacturer
    > hid the word "death" in a waterfall, or that a seemingly innocent
    > arrangement of random objects secretly formed a likeness of a naked and
    > seductive woman.
    > This all raises a lot of questions, whether you see these images when you
    > peer intently at the suspect ads or not.* But supposing subliminal images
    > do
    > exist: how did they get there? Are there really evil geniuses
    > intentionally
    > cackling over their airbrushes, manipulating and enslaving our minds? Or
    > is
    > the presence of these images nothing more interesting than Charlie Brown's
    > looking up at the clouds and seeing a duckie and a horsie?
    > Of course, I don't know. But if we get stuck on that question, we're
    > falling
    > into the biggest trap of all in understanding cultural evolution. It's the
    > trap that conspiracy theorists fall into, and the same trap that people
    > who
    > pooh-pooh conspiracy theories fall into. It's the mistaken belief that
    > anything complicated must arise out of conscious intention.
    > Complicated things arise naturally out of the forces of evolution. No
    > conscious intention is necessary.
    > [There's a cartoon here in the book making fun of subliminals-RB]
    > Does subliminal advertising work? Sure! Ads can have parts that you don't
    > become consciously aware of, but that draw your attention unconsciously.
    > If
    > the ad pushes more of your buttons as a result of the subliminal content,
    > you will pay more attention to it. Paying more attention is the first step
    > toward paying more money. It can work in reverse, too: some fast-food
    > restaurants paint their walls orange because they believe it creates
    > subliminal discomfort. You'll want to spend less time lingering there, and
    > your leaving opens up tables for new customers.
    > But don't think subliminal ads are the only problem: as should be obvious
    > to
    > everyone who has watched the evolution of television programming for more
    > than a few years, efforts to attract your attention are not limited to the
    > subliminal.
    > The television is screaming at us day and night with all the greatest
    > button-pushing memes there are: Danger! Food! Sex! Authority! We don't
    > even
    > have to believe it's real for it to attract our attention. Remember "I'm
    > not
    > a doctor, but I play one on TV"?
    > Not only commercials but also programs are evolving to command a greater
    > share of your mind, and to say they were doing it subliminally would be an
    > almost humorous understatement. As I write this, the first naked female
    > breasts on American broadcast television have appeared on the program NYPD
    > Blue. Baywatch, a show with little plot but lots of bare skin, has become
    > the most watched television show in the history of the world. Female
    > breasts, naked or otherwise, tend to command men's attention and hence in
    > the very efficient evolutionary medium of television they tend to
    > proliferate. A casual observer will notice that the inclusion of breasts,
    > not to mention the rest of the female anatomy, in much male-oriented
    > advertising is far from subliminal.
    > Advertisers have learned to push your buttons. They also have learned a
    > good
    > deal about programming you with all kinds of memes. It's not the
    > subliminal
    > that we need to be concerned with-it's that they now have the knowledge to
    > unleash full-blown designer mind-viruses through their advertisements. And
    > the effects of that are unpredictable and frightening.
    > * Personally, ever since I first read about subliminal advertising I've
    > seen
    > the word "sex" in every glass of liquor on the rocks-now I've got a
    > distinction-meme for it!
    > ===============================================================
    > This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    > Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    > For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
    > see:

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