Ads of the Month
This could have been Robbie William's month but since he is a great pop singer who gets more than his fair share of headlines ( see Ads from the Archives II ) I have decided to give pride of place to the type of ad that does its best to ruin the festive season for many individuals prone to consume too much alcohol or consume alcohol for the wrong reasons. It is an ad for Drambuie.
The elements of interest are primarily 'contained' within the glass but those viewers with a roving imagination will not doubt be able to perceive 'images' within the ice cubes. What will be perceived, however, is the product of the perceptual system as it attempts to make sense of the ambiguous nature of the 'figures' in the glass. There are various animalistic 'faces', an undoubted phallic shape, a Lowry type figure to the left about to have his eye poked out, and others. All in all, a nice festive treat for the festive drinker.
The Drambuie is intended to be drunk with ice but it isn't the drink that needs to be put on ice. Such ads need to be iced - permanently. They are intended to encourage drinking as a means of coping with emotional turmoil and anxiety - or worse still, to engender such emotions in some viewers in the hope that they will 'turn to drink' to alleviate their anxiety.
For other ads in the same vein seek those for Jack Daniels, Jim Beam and others. And don't forget the classic Gilbey's Gin ad first reported by Wilson Key.
Not for the first time, nor for the last, Marlboro enters the ad of the month stakes. See Oct 2000, Jan 2000 and May 1999 for other examples. This, in fact is an 'old' ad. It has been issued at least twice before in recent years. This would seem to indicate that it has been an effective advocate for Marlboro - and embedded imagery in advertising. For more details about this jaded jackrabbit and his embedded message see the Second Time Around page. Unlike the stereotypical rabbit who has not trouble mating and reproducing, this one has to advertise for sex. The letters SX are visible on his chest on the extract below.
It's not a particularly pleasant ad, but what is not consciously perceived is considerably more unpleasant that what can be perceived.
Ignore the snouts of the crocs in the foreground and focus on the background. Superficially, the trees are seemingly sillouetted against a brightly lit sky, possibly a fire or the setting sun. However if you look more carefully at this aspect of the ad you will note that the scene is in fact composed of a set of indistinct 'faces'. The rollover highlights a couple of the larger 'faces', with only one side of the 'face' on the right showing reasonably clearly.
The caption would seem to refer to the crocs (either to be seen by tourists, or to devour tourists). But, where smokers are concerned, the caption really refers to the unearthly figures in the background. They are there to trigger anxiety in some smokers and to remind them of their welcome into the next life once they shuffle their mortal coil - with the help of Marlboro, of course. The inspiration for such an ad possibly originated with the viewing of artistic works containing embedded faces.
For more commentary on Marlboro ads, follow your snout.
'It's all a man could want', so one of Gillette's captions goes. One would be inclined to consider such a caption was referring to a close shave. But, of course, it is nothing of the sort. It is really a double entendre and, read in conjunction with the present ad for Arctic Ice, the meaning would be much more basic.
However, the Arctic Ice ad doesn't need any carryover of meaning from other Gillette ads. It has its own means of presenting a seductive message. If you have not already noticed, this ad has a number of semi-subliminal components.
First, attention is drawn to what can be explored. But this embedded element is unlikely to be noticed consciously. Nevertheless, Gillette apparently believe, with some justification, that their product can be an aid to the fulfilment of a natural desire. The ad thus provides a vertical representation of what is normally a horizontal desire - and I am not referring to the upright aerosol can. More will be said about this embedded element later but click on the ad image for a larger version if you wish to find it on your own.
To complement this key image, and try to ensure that it is Arctic Ice, rather than any other brand, that is used to help achieve the implied goal, attention is drawn to the brand name by two 'faces'. These can be found on either side of the brand name, Arctic Ice, as it appears on the aerosol can.
A third salient, semi-subliminal element is alongside and partly penetrating the circular shape on the left of the can.
One can immediately leap to the conclusion that this is intended to be perceived as a phallic object fulfilling its natural function and penetrating the area to be explored. And one would be correct in such an assumption.
However, the producers of this ad did not simply wish to leave this conclusion solely to the imagination of the viewer. They wished to enhance the likelihood that the phallic shape would be either consciously attended to or simply unconsciously 'recognised' in terms of its meaning. They added some 'lettering' to the head of the phallic shape to try and ensure that it was perceived as a sexual implement.
The lettering has not reproduced particularly clearly in the image shown alongside. However the rollover gives an indication of where some relatively clear examples can be found. Persusal of an original copy of the ad will substantiate the claim that the letters (partially over-lapping) are SE and X, only one of which appears in the word Gillette or Arctic Ice.
One final word on the topic of shaving and sex, since Gillette failed to provide such a reminder. To avoid the dangers associated with nicks, ensure you practice safe sex.
If the subject of this section was placed on a separate page the one and only headline would have to be 'It's the real thing.' But it isn't, so we will have to settle for reporting the semi-subliminal oddities that make recent examples of Coca-Cola packaging something to remember. The first can be found on 500 and 2ltr bottles of Coca-Cola.
Superficially the labels appear pretty innocuous. However, look at the 'spray' emerging from the bottle but don't get carried away. It is not a phallic shape, though it might be intended to be perceived as sexy if one reads quite a lot into the fact that it is bursting to get out of the bottle.
The odd thing about the label is that it appears to contain a very thirsty, Gremlin like, face as becomes clear when one turns the label on its side.
If one were to consider this label on its own it could simply be an aberation or the idiosyncratic work of the team who produced the label. However, despite one classic blooper when the recipe for Coke was changed some years ago, the advertising, promotion and marketing of Coca-Cola is generally deemed to be very carefully managed, though in recent years Coke has been having a hard time. This attention to detail would seem to indicate that the 'face' was intentional (and presumably effective in encouraging the drinking of Coke).
It is not the only Coke label that the author has come across recently that has what seem to be semi-subliminal elements embedded in them. Some in fact can be construed as semi subliminal attempts to associate sex with Coke. And Pepsi don't seem to be taking the competition too lightly. They also have joined in the 'subliminal' Coke War.
Raindrops keep falling on the model's dress as raindrops are wont to do. What is rather unusual in the ad for Nivea Sun Moisturising Self Tan Spray is the fact that the drops of rain seem predestined to fall into patterns forming the shapes of the letters S and X.
Maybe it is my imagination but there is also the semblance of lettereing embedded in the dark patch to the left of ad, level with the model's upper arm. You might share the same thoughts. When you look at the extract, below right, illustrating the portion of the dress just above the knee, you might also wonder if there is intended to be some association formed between the 'lettering' and the fact that the model is 'hitching up' the hem of her dress and the somewhat phallic shape of the Spray dispensor.
All of this could, of course, be coincidence, just as the colour of grass tends to be green when there is adequate rainfall. The rollover figure on the right gives an indication of where to look for the 'letters'. As the note on the rollover reminds you, it is rare that semi-subliminal letters are clearly printed in ads. It is normally the case that variations in colouring (in this case, apparent water drops on the dress fabric) permit such an interpretation. Such interpretation may occur without conscious awareness but there is little doubt that many individuals will be able to perceive them when attention is focussed on that area of the ad. This focussing of attention is, of course, rather different from the normal 'holistic' process involved in viewing ads. Casual attention to such an image would lead to a straightforward interpretation of the scene as simply being that of a young woman wearing a dress with spots of rain on it - but, of course, it is not just that. It is a sexually laden scene involving a young woman with spots of rain on her dress.
The context in which such an ad is viewed is clearly important in determing the reaction that will be obtained on viewing the ad. Overlearning and lack of attention lead to simplistic conclusions when one reflects consciously on the image. However, the visual system and emotional responses do not wait for thoughts about images. Images and their component parts can produce reactions within the brain well before thoughts enter consciousness. Such images could, in fact, produce emotional responses that would bias judgements in favour of this product if the viewers were positively disposed towards sexually oriented messages. The young female audience of the She magazine this ad was in would most likely have such a predisposition. This would be encouraged by the first caption on the magazine cover. Immediately after the title logo was the caption '21 SEX MYTHS: Improve your love life overnight'. Within a context set by such headlines how may other trains of thought are likely to be running through the viewers head when they come across such ads? This is not brainwashing of the Korean War variety, it is much more subtle. But how effective such ads are? is a question that has never been adequately answered. Academics do not have appropriate answers yet there must be answers within the commercial domain if promotional and advertising activity is adequately evaluated.
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Last Revised: 20th September, 2001