Concerns of Subliminal Messaging in the Media

It appears that subliminal messages are everywhere, from children’s cartoons to mass media advertisement. However, while some of the messages are evidently true, are all of the messages what the critics say they are or as the companies explain to be plain coincidences? Or perhaps most of the so-called subliminal messages are simply a Rorschach effect where the critics are analyzing the film, videos and posters and seeing what they hope to see.

So how effective subliminal messaging really is? Some countries including the United Kingdom, United States of America and Australia banned the practice of inserting subliminal messages in their advertising.

Apparently, everyone is susceptible.

Artists are the ones who include the subliminal messages in the media. Does it mean they will be immune to it or less susceptible to subliminal messages?

The following video shows that even the ‘users’ of subliminal messages in advertisements are susceptible to subliminal persuasion themselves.

In the video, the host, Derren Brown, invited 2 advertisement designers whom which should be experts on subliminal messages and its usage, to an experiment to see if even the experts are susceptible to subliminal persuasion. Derren intentionally put up messages and images along the specified route the designers took to the venue where the experiment is to take place. This proves that while in a relaxed state of mind, such as watching television, surfing the internet or even taking a car ride as shown in the video, people are especially vulnerable to subliminal persuasion and more likely to take in images and messages in their subconscious mind.

This video explains how subliminal messages are used subtly in advertisements and children’s shows. It also briefly explains how while watching television, one’s brain wave transfer from beta, which is an alert state of mind, to alpha, a relax state of mind where the brain is highly receptive of suggestions and such. This is the state of mind which hypnotists usually put their subjects in before introducing suggestions.

However, the use of subliminal messages is not a recent idea. Artists such as Da Vinci have already been known to put subtle imagery in his work in that age, even contemporary artists in modern era also use subliminal imagery to express their art.

Flower sex

The word ‘sex’ is hidden in the lower branches of the picture.

Is it ethical to use subliminal messages in mass media?

In my opinion, it highly depends on the purpose of the messages. Most subliminal messages that are in the media are used to boost the sales of products or to increase viewership. However, I feel that as long as there is no intention to deceive or mislead the audience, there is no harm in using subliminal messaging. But if subliminal messages are used to persuade the audience to consume products such as cigarettes or drugs, that is more unethical as these products are harmful to the consumers.

It is possible, despite all the negative reports about subliminal messaging, to use subliminal messaging in a positive way, such as placing posters containing subliminal motivational messages or imagery in schools and work places to encourage students and employees in achieving their goals and targets. It could also be used in rehabilitation centres to help people kick addictions and other problems. I believe by using the power of subliminal persuasion ethically with good intentions in the mass media, it just might significantly impact the society for the better.

Source 1, 2

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Impact of Subliminal Messaging in Media (Advertisement)

Coke is evidently not the only company using sexual innuendo.

Pepsi, Mcdonald, Burger King

Many advertisement use sexual innuendos to attract consumers to their products. The idea of sex prompts us into a very suggestible state of mind which means that if we were told to consume a product in that state of mind, we were more likely to subconsciously want to consume that product. The more exposure we have to that advertisement, the more we are susceptible to it.

If sex sells, it is no wonder that these are major brands in the market if these subliminal messages are purposely intended to induce us to be more suggestible to these brands.

Source 1, 2, 3

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Subliminal Messaging in Media (Advertisement)

Coke-Cocaine Picture

Coca-Cola has been reportedly controversial in their advertising, using subliminal messages that involve cocaine and sex. Highlighted in the above picture is an upturned can of Coke that appears to have 2 people sniffing a straw of cocaine. Coke used to contain cocaine. That is no secret. Could that have something to do with the imagery of the people sniffing cocaine in the logo?

Absolut subliminal

Absolut intentionally put a message on the ice-cube of the advertisement for Absolut Subliminal.

Coke on the other hand, does something else with their ice cubes.

Coke-Feel the curves

This Coke advertisement was produced in 1995 and the artist intentionally slipped the image of oral sex into the ice cubes. However, people noticed and Coke had to recall the advert, costing them over $200,000. But before the advert was approved, did no one in Coca-cola notice that obvious image of sex in the ice cube? Or could they have intentionally released that advert with that image on it?

Sources 1, 2, 3

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Impact of Subliminal Messaging in Media (Disney)

Since Disney’s film and shorts are targeted at children, it appears that these subliminal messages are targeted at them. However, what good would it do to sublimate these sexual images to children? Although these cartoons are for children, these subliminal messages are targeted at adults for them to enjoy these ‘cartoons’ more.

One could argue that these artists were just having fun without thoughts of how their audience could be affected. After all, most of these images are not consciously visible to the audience, unless the films were watched in high definition or frame by frame, and work as inside jokes to the people in the industry. Although some, are a little more obvious.

Lion King,

Minnie Mouse,


But undeniably, the images are there and it is unquestionable that watching too much of these cartoons causes children to have mental and emotional problems.

Source 1, 2, 3

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Subliminal Messaging in Media (Disney)

Disney is extremely controversial in their subliminal advertising. If the critics can be believed, there are Freudian elements in almost everything that Disney did. From the naked Jessica Rabbit to a phallic tower in The Little Mermaid

Subliminal Messages in Cartoon – Oinkface

However, it is common practice for artists to add gags and inside jokes to their works. Especially in the early days of Disney where no credit was given to any of the artist and only Walt Disney was credited for the shorts, artists would try to sneak their own names in. In the Goofy sports shorts, most of the players’ names are names of Disney artists.

In 1999, Disney recalled the home video versions of The Rescuers as there was an image of a topless woman that was evidently inserted in on purpose.

2 The rescuers image

Although these images are not visible in normal viewing, it is undeniably there and in the millisecond that it appears, although our conscious mind does not register it, our subconscious has recorded the sexual image in that cartoon.

Source 1, 2

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Subliminal Messaging: What is it?

Subliminal Messaging: What is it?

Skittles Picture (Source)

Subliminal Messages – Pictures or words which are not recognized by the conscious mind, but instead recorded in the subconscious. (Source)

Subliminal messages are widely used in the media for various reasons and since we are usually unable to consciously recognise them, subliminal messages make for very powerful tools for massive consumption. Unbeknownst to us, we have been imprinted with messages encouraging us to do something or providing us with certain information on something.

They can simply be graphics or information that designers add in simply for the fun it. Pixar often subliminally reference other films in their films. Most notably is the carpet of the villain in Toy Story, which is the same design as the carpet of the hotel in The Shining. In Toy Story, Sid was pulling apart toys and putting them in weird combinations, hurting the toys. Therefore the reference to the horror movie The Shining was apt in suggesting horror in the house.

It is widely known that “Sex Sells”, and it is not simply the primal instinct of sex that encourages us to buy something, but suggesting sex prompts us into a very suggestible state of mind which makes us more receptive of what we are viewing. 2 of the most controversial media giants who are known to widely use sex in their subliminal messages are Walt Disney and Coca-Cola. Even Skittles is believed to use sex in selling their candy, evident in the picture above where the word ‘sex’ can be clearly seen at the bottom of the packet.

However, subliminal messages can be more than just about sex. They are everywhere and since they are not recognized by our conscious mind, we usually do not notice them. While sex is the most often used tool, there are other ways that subliminal messages work their way into media to imprint information in our sub-conscious.

OMGfacts video

Source (Source 1, 2)

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