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Part 1 of Banner Heading for Jim Hagart's Subliminal  World.Part 2 of Banner Heading for Jim Hagart's Subliminal WorldPart 3 of Banner Heading.

Four Excerpts from the first draft of

Sexy, Subliminal & Deadly? : The Psychology of Manipulative Advertising (in preparation )

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The four excerpts included below are from an early draft of Sexy, Subliminal and Deadly: The Psychology of manipulative advertising. Read on and find out what you have been missing.


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Excerpt 1 : Notes for a chapter entitled

Welcome to Hell: The Alternative Marlboro Country 

Marlboro ad: hell, the alternative Marlboro country

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Most informed individuals, after considering the statistics relating to smoking and health, would consider one of the surest ways to hell, short of shooting oneself or jumping into the path of a locomotive, would be to smoke a few dozen 'coffin nails' daily.   The statistical evidence is as conclusive as one can get, given the indirect, interactive and long term nature of the processes that produce lung cancer and other smoking related illnesses. One in three cigarette smokers will die prematurely of some smoking related illness. A variety of relevant books, giving both pro and anti-smoking viewpoints are listed in the bibliography.

Whilst the 'road to hell' might also be shared by both smokers and passive smokers, forced to inhale the cigarette smoke still prevalent in public places, this seems an unlikely view to be propagated by Philip Morris Inc., the producers of Marlboro. Yet, given the perverse psychology of some, if not many, smokers, it is not as unlikely a viewpoint as it seems.

Many years ago Wilson Key pointed out that one ad for cigarettes dared to include the word 'cancer'. Alastair McIntosh, in a 1996 article focussing on death related imagery in Silk Cut ads, also deduced that tobacco companies were not reluctant to make use of anxiety raising imagery. The reason for this, considered in retrospect, is straightforward. The anxiety induced by exposure to the word cancer or other death related features also produces behaviour that is perceived, by those smokers who smoke because they are anxious, as a means of dealing with anxiety. Catch 22: the response of such individuals is to smoke to relieve that anxiety engendered by the cigarette ad that produced that anxiety in the first place.

With a form of reverse or circular logic, just as facing up to the fear of climbing or parachuting or other risky activity can lead to a desire to overcome that fear, fear of the potential outcomes associated with smoking can also lead to a desire to 'prove' one can 'face up to smoking'. Each puff reincarnates the fear. But this is quickly overcome by the relaxing effects of nicotine. And so the vicious cycle of anxiety- smoking, smoking-anxiety, anxiety-smoking, continues.

Anxious smokers thus obtain sublime relief from their anxiety, using the device that causes much of that anxiety in the first place.   And as they mature after first acquiring the habit of smoking they acquire more knowledge and wisdom. They thus rationalize their actions as, unfortunately, knowledge about the ill-health effects of smoking, on its own, is usually insufficient to overcome the  nicotine addiction that accompanies cigarette smoking.

The knowledge of the long term outcome of smoking usually comes well after a strong habit, if not addiction to nicotine, has developed. Nevertheless, given public attitudes to smoking and health, it makes sense for Philip Morris and other tobacco companies to elicit from some of their customers the relevant degree of anxiety/fear. Rather unsurprisingly, health warnings on cigarette packets and billboard hoardings fulfil pretty much the same function for individuals prone to anxiety. Each reminder fuels the need to abate the anxiety that is provoked. Philip Morris' advertising agencies do this in full measure by complementing the health warning with additional cues in their advertising.   As we shall see, in some of their adverts, Hell really is the alternative Marlboro Country.

View the thumbnail of the full Oil Derrick ad illustrated above (click to view a larger image). Located in the bottom left hand corner is the ubiquitous Marlboro pack. The pack is apparently being reflected in a highly polished, oil-rig worker's, ribbed steel helmet. The helmet is resting on what would seem to be the front wheel arch of a Jeep with the number 700 embossed on it.

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In the top right hand corner of the ad are a tow truck and two oil derricks. Waste gases from the oil derricks are flaring into the night sky and casting a reddish glare across the landscape. This glow is also apparently reflecting from the helmet. But it cannot be a true reflection, as the glow reflecting from the helmet is too bright to be from the derricks and at the wrong angle.   This reflection would therefore seem to be from a forest fire or a setting sun.

So far, all seems normal, apart from the reflections. But careful examination will also reveal that   'reflected' in the steel helmet are a cluster of three small, fuzzy, images. The first impression of these images is that they are simply reflections of badges that are outside the field of vision of the viewer. There is certainly nothing displayed in front of the helmet that would cast such reflections, other than the pack of Marlboro.

On closer attention it seems that the centre image can be perceived is a 'little devil' (standing in the dark) complete withextract from Marlboro ad with rollover. 'horns'. To the left of this 'little devil' is a devilish, mask-like,'face' (circled in the rollover image), again largely in the shadows. The image on the right is almost, but not quite, coffin shaped, but could just as easily be perceived by a suggestible individual as another 'devilish' face with slits for downcast eyes. Taken together this combination of images gives the author an uneasy impression that Philip Morris Inc perhaps intend to convey a rather unpalatable, if semi-subliminal, message, to anyone who views this ad.

This impression of something 'devilish' at work is heightened when one notes that the Marlboro brand name on the pack, as reflected on the steel helmet, appears as a series of somewhat indecipherable letters. And, rather surprisingly, the cluster of letters to the right of the reflection can be 'read' as Hell.

In addition above the cluster of three small images there is another image, somewhat like Batman's hood. If one perceives or responds to the hellish theme in the ad, then the 'ears' could be perceived as horns - and the figure as yet another 'devil'.

To the right of the helmet, the reflection, apparently representing another aspect of the scene that is 'off the page', gives the impression of a forest fire or an extremely bright sunset. Above the horizon floats a stubby, cigar-like figure, also with a pair of 'horns'. Older British viewers might note that this figure is somewhat reminiscent of the devilish figure (Hob) who arose from Hob's End Underground Station in the classic movie Quatermas and the Pit. These are presumably intended to be perceived as yet another complementary devilish figure.

A slight awareness (preconscious rather than conscious) of any or all of these images is probably sufficient to induce a feeling of tension or anxiety in smokers - and a need for a cigarette. This type of response is more likely to occur in those individuals susceptible to messages about death.

The flaring gases provide two additional images to complete the hellish message. Note extract from Marlboro ad with rollover.that the flare on the left is easily interpretable as a figure in either a body bag or a shroud. The flare to the right, hovering over that on the left, vulture like, can be perceived as dominant, and perhaps also as a 'rooster-headed devil'.

If this type of message, that Hell is the true Marlboro Country, was presented verbally, then smokers would give up in droves. But, present it using a cluster of small images, on the borderline of perceptual ability, where there is little or no conscious awareness on the part of viewers, then the message can apparently do its work, unnoticed. It can either initiate action in some susceptible viewers, or reinforce various emotive states related to smoking behaviour in others.

For those readers not yet convinced of the interpretation given to the message in this ad there is still more semi-subliminal material, in the same emotive, deathly, vein.

Look to the left of the oil derricks and find the tow truck. Look to the rear of the truck and itextract from Marlboro ad with rollover. should be possible to discern a row of 'faces' looking towards the right. If one thinks of them as misshapen pumpkin faces then the easiest image to detect is the 'face' immediately behind the rear of the truck (circled in the rollover image). This 'face' has a 'conjoint' nose and right eye socket, rather than separate blobs for the eye and the nose. Nevertheless it is a pretty good representation of a deathly face. Superimposed on the larger pumpkin 'face' is a smaller 'face' with the 'nose' somewhat above eye-level, rather than the normal position. Neither of these 'faces' is sufficiently devoid of flesh to be considered skulls but neither do they possess the liveliness of normal faces. 

The hellish message of the ad is seemingly complete. From the first flaring of the match or light. From smoking to the grave, and perhaps beyond. Marlboro will keep you company.

In addition to the images noted above,  there are other images that support a secondary semi-subliminal message. If one were 'forced' to decide whether the devil/body bag/gas flares had a specific sex, then the one below/left would seem to extract from Marlboro ad with female (there is an indication of a 'breast').  In contrast, and because of its body language and it's 'dominant positioning' relative to the female, that on the top/right would be defined as male. The 'male' might also be perceived as 'leering' at the female. The ad thus has a semi-subliminal sexual component, in addition to its Hellish theme. [This sexual aspect of this is elaborated on in additional analyses.].

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The deathly message of the Oil Derrick ad is carried over into other Marlboro ads. A number of these are easier to see or appeciate and some of these are presented elsewhere on this site

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Excerpt 2 : From the Preface

Myth and illusion in advertising

The art of illusion was once the province of conjurers, magicians and others skilled in the art of deception. Nowadays it can be regarded as the province of everyone who has an interest in fostering cultural, commercial or political attitudes. �Spin doctors� cast illusions when they foster the images of status conscious celebrities, politicians, and the makers and shakers of the business world. Most subtly and most efficiently, however, illusions originate within those companies whose understanding of human psychology and society help them develop and nurture effective advertising strategies, that capitalise upon human hopes and expectations - and human frailties and limitations.

The impact of such illusions derives from the fact that we live in a world to which e ascribe meaning. In many instances, the meaning of an ad or image is ascribed by others with the power to convince, persuade, cajole, or humour consumers into accepting their view of the world, their values, their products and their functions. Modern advertising techniques, allied with the use of secondary imagery, have placed the �controllers� of the means of communication, technology and the media in a powerful position to alter people�s perceptions. In effect, it is possible to �reinvent� society and determine, in part, the nature of consumer preferences

The majority of advertising techniques that the public are exposed to are socially sanctioned. These are deeme` acceptable by the majority of the population. Certain techniques, however, are deemed unethical. These continue to exist by virtue of consumers lack of awareness of their existance and the inability of lay members of the public to detect their use. One such technique is undoubtedly subliminal advertising. A variety of attempts have been made over the past few decades to keep consumers �in the dark� with regard to such advertising. And, even if aware of the existance of subiminal advertising, members of the pubic are, at best, unsure about the nature of such advertising and can rarely offer examples that worry them.

The techniques associated with what has historically een referred to as subliminal advertising cross the borderline between acceptable and unacceptable advertising practice. To refer to most uses of this technique as subliminal advertising is, in fact, a misleading use of the term subliminal. This becomes self evident when one notes that critics of subliminal techniques illustrate their case. Subliminal advertising cannot, by definition, be consciously perceived nor acknowledged. Illustrations can be seen and clearly cannot be subliminal in nature. They are semi-subliminal.

Drawing a distinction between subliminal advertising and semi-subliminal advertising is justifiable, as the apparent mislabelling of semi-subliminal phenomena as subliminal in nature is not just a misnomer by the various interested parties. Nor is it an example of sloppy terminology. Inappropriate use of the phrase subliminal advertising serves to protect the interests of unethical advertising agents and their clients at the expense of the consumer.

Semi-subliminal ads are intended to manipulate the thoughts and emotions of consumers. Yet, because of their nature, consumers currently have no defence against the messages, themes and images promoted using semi-subliminal techniques. An increase in public awareness is thus a necessary prerequisite to any consumer challenge directed towards advertising agencies and the self-governing bodies who use and permit the use of semi-subliminal images. At present, where the issue of semi-subliminal advertising is concerned, the interests these bodies serve are primarily those of advertising practitioners, not those of the consumer. It is therefore understandable why, for three decades or more, such organisations have failed to constrain the unethical behaviour of many major companies within the U.K. and elsewhere.

The various professional groups with a vested interested in current advertising practices possess a specific, biased, view of what constitutes subliminal advertising (see the author's recent correspondence with the Advertising Standards Authority and Institute of Practitioners in Advertising pages and the ads promoted by theAmerican Association of Advertising Agencies some decade or so ago on the Ads from the Archives page. The use of more accurate terminology, referring to semi-subliminal phenomena, would serve to draw attention to such unethical advertising and demystify what is generally deemed a rather exotic subject. The use of more accurate terminology would also make it easier for critics, researchers and analysts to address a variety of relevant issues, ranging from criticism to the discussion of ethical standards and advertising guidelines, more effectively, and ultimately ensure that advertising agencies adhered to ethical guidelines.

The primary goals of Sexy, Subliminal and Deadly? are, therefore, to reformulate statements about �subliminal� advertising; emphasise that many companies continue to use semi-subliminal techniques in a systematic manner; demonstrate unequivocally that such advertising is relatively common where certain product ranges are concerned; and draw attention to the companies who most readily abuse advertising guidelines in Britain, the United States and elsewhere.

Is Seeing Believing?

Seeing should lead to believing, so common sense tells us. On the basis of such reasoning it is therefore the obvious elements of adverts that ought to possess persuasive power. However, with adverts containing semi-subliminal stimuli, it is the long term influence of �unseen� aspects of the advert that may determine preferences between equivalent products. To be more accurate, although semi-subliminal aspects of ads are seen, they are not perceived consciously. Their impact is at a preconscious level of mental functioning, in the hinterland between automatic, habitual, responses and conscious awareness.

The information contained in those semi-subliminal adverts that have been collected by the author is usually slightly above the perceptual threshold of the normal viewer. But, in normal viewing circumstances, if people are asked about such ads, they cannot report any oddities. In effect, the semi-subliminal information will seem to have been overlooked. Psychological evidence indicates, however, that the viewer has viewed the information in the advert, assessed the relevance of key aspects of the ad, including the semi-subliminal elements, and assessed which information is relevant for storage in memory. But, throughout this complex series of automatic decision making, the viewer has no precise knowledge of what they have viewed.

As there is no conscious awareness, it may seem counterintuitive to assert that adverts containing semi-subliminal stimuli are influential. Especially when those who view the ads are not aware of the contents. However, a review of the psychological evidence in Sexy, Subliminal and Deadly demonstrates conclusively that many adverts are not what they seem. In fact, the overt means of 'persuasion' that viewers are familiar with often exist simply to distract one from less acceptable, and sometimes deeply disturbing semi-subliminal components.

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If you would like clarification on the meaning of the terms subliminal and semi-subliminal, see the Frequently Asked Questions page.

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Excerpt 3 : Notes for a chapter on

Benson & Hedges Gold Bricks: From the Surreal to the Pyreal

Does Sex cause Lung Cancer? The answer to this rather flippant question depends, of course, upon how one interprets it. If one accepts the everyday meaning of the question, in which the word sex it taken to refer to sexual activity, it conceivably would conjure up mental images of sexual activity and an implausible relationship with lung cancer. The answer to such an interpretation of the question would thus be �No�.

However, there is at least one alternative meaning to the question. If the question were interpreted as �Does the [word] Sex cause Lung Cancer?�, initially one would be at a loss to offer a straightforward answer. The question would seem absurd, nonsensical, even crazy. However, although this seems an unusual interpretation of the question, it is, in fact, valid and meaningful. And, unfortunately, it refers to an unpalatable truth regarding the advertising of some brands of cigarettes, including Benson & Hedges.

Previous chapters demonstrate that the word sex is embedded in a variety of ways, often in a semi-subliminal manner, in Marlboro and other cigarette adverts. In the United Kingdom, the Benson & Hedges brand also, for many years, consistently utilised semi-subliminal and other manipulative messages in its cigarette advertising.

Benson & Hedges ads, for many decades, almost invariably relied upon visual messages to impart their meaning.

The sexualisation of the Benson & Hedges brand name and the use of latent meanings were the two primary devices used by Gallahers to manipulate the attitudes and behaviour of Benson & Hedges smokers. But Benson & Hedges Sovereign, one of the subsidiary cigarette brands making use of the cache associated with the Benson & Hedges name, uses text to impart meanings to their advertising. And these meanings would not be appreciated by smokers if these messages were made overtly.

The messages involve subtle variations in the meanings of sentences, along the lines of the introductory question to this excerpt. These convey potentially distressing meanings, likely to be relevant to smokers and potential smokers, alike. But, relevant or not, they nevertheless, escape conscious attention.

We will consider the use of latent meanings first. One advert for Benson & Hedges Sovereign depicts the Joker, the brand character associated with Sovereign cigarettes, gripping tightly to a lamp-post. Presumably he is attempting to holding on tightly, to ensure he is not blown away. The structure of the ad and the reference to �blown away� would normally refer to such life preserving activity if a storm force wind were present. However, in colloquial slang, especially within a context devoted to smoking, to be 'blown away' also means being 'removed' or 'killed'.

When the caption refers to being blown away for only the price of a pack of cigarettes, the latent meaning is much more sombre than the obvious meaning. No high priced �hit-man� is needed to do this job. A few packs of relatively cheap cigarettes, a penny a puff, over a few years, will do the job just as effectively - and in a much more discreet manner. Gallahers therefore seemingly share the same philosophy about their customers as Philip Morris. At least one Marlboro ad had a caption with a very similar message. The caption on the Marlboro ad was �Let�s hope it�s not only the view that blows you away.�

In both the Marlboro and Sovereign cases, the allusion was clearly, let�s hope it�s Marlboro/Sovereign cigarettes that �blow you away�, rather than any brand from the opposion. Both companies apparently find the life of their customers is cheap and not worth preserving.

Despite the high status name, Sovereign cigarettes are destined to provide the coffin nails for individuals with relatively low incomes. And the Joker who adorns the Sovereign pack is, of course, an interesting character to use in cigarette advertising. Te black colouring of the pack is also an interesting choice.

There are interesting connotations one can draw when comparing the black pack of Sovereign against those for the gold pack of Benson and Hedges. The black pack would seem to indicate that Sovereign smokers feel that life has been tough on them. Sovereign smokers might like to think they are �the Joker in the pack� but there are few bright prospects in their long term outlook on life. The promoters of Sovereign realise this but, so far as they are concerned, their customers are expendible. The last laughs will be at the expense of Sovereign smokers, literally. The Joker takes all.

Sovereign advertising thus makes use of latent meanings and is advertised in low cost magazines. The principal Benson & Hedges brand is primarily aimed at a slightly higher socio-economic group. Careful scrutiny of adverts for the main brand will reveal that many Benson & Hedges advertisements contained suggestions, allusions or clearly identifiable messages with sexual connotations. But, unlike the Sovereign ad noted above, the messages do not rely on text messages. They are either purely visual or presented in the form of semi-subliminal images. However, as is normal for such messages and images, these would not be consciously perceived by the average viewer.

Benson & Hedges adverts, in fact, over the past decade or so, would be judged quite highly by the average consumer, if judged on the basis of aesthetic quality. Overtly, the rather tasteful and surrealistic images appear to be all that that the adverts contain, and any meaning extracted would relate to the Benson and Hedges brand itself. But further consideration would reveal connotations concerning status, sociability and other important values were associated with the gold pack. In addition there were other less obvious but, nevertheless, notable elements of the adverts.

For well over a decade there have been semi-subliminal sexual 'messages' and sexual allusions within the majority of Benson & Hedges adverts. This judgement may in fact be a conservative estimate. The variability of perceptual processes, and the nature of secondary imagery, means that the author will not have recognised all the embedded messages in Benson & Hedges ads.

Benson and Hedges Heat of the Night ad.One of the earliest adverts obtained by the author depicts a pack of Benson & Hedges displayed on an external billboard, on the side wall of a cinema. The cinema was apparently screening the film �The Heat is on�.

As depicted on the left, the gold Benson & Hedges pack has partly �melted� - as if from the �heat�. That the pack has melted, rather than burned, helps sustain the illusion that Benson & Hedges is, like gold, something of value, and not simply cardboard.

However, even if one accepts that gold would melt in such circumstances, it is noticeable that the congealed molten 'metal' is rather unnatural in shape (see enlarged image). The �molten� metal �congealed� into a shape remarkably like the shapely leg and buttocks of a woman (click here for other interpretions of the same image). The �heat� alluded to was thus not simply related to temperature, it was�sexual heat�.

This advert was possibly one of the first Benson & Hedges adverts to attempt to covertly sexualise the cigarette brand without viewers being consciously aware of this fact. It preceded a decade or so of advertising in which there was assiduous use of semi-subliminal embedding of the word sex. But, whether textual or image based, the intention underlying the use of embedded, semi-subliminal, was undoubtedly the same: Benson & Hedges was to be associated with sexual values and activities.

A more recent advert in this series, attempting to �fix� the sexual/Benson & Hedges association in Benson and Hedges sexy plug ad.the mind of consumers, depicts a dismantled electric plug, with twisted wiring. The wires form a blatent representation of the letters s e x. Even viewers struggling to discern most semi-subliminal figures against a distracting background have little difficulty in recognising the �letters� in the wiring, especially once the location is pointed out to them.

These ads indicate the clear disparity between what is seen when ads are viewed superficially and that which is evident upon closer inspection. The 'gap' between what exists and what is perceived indicates how easily advertisers can misdirect the conscious attention of viewers. And, of course, attempt to influence them. The disparities between what is seen and what may be perceived also indicate how essential it is for consumers not to accept at face value reports from companies and professional organisations who claim 'that there is no such thing as �subliminal� advertising'. There is more to many adverts than meet the eye, and none more so than in the sexualisation of cigarette brands.

Once one is aware of the possibility that Benson & Hedges adverts contain semi-subliminal messages, some focussing on the letters s, e and x, and others on imagery, it not difficult to find examples in many of the ads produced in the late half of the 1980�s and the early 1990�s. Changing economic circumstances, strong challenges from consumer groups, threats of legislation, increasing consumer knowledge, and many court cases in the USA. and the UK, have seemingly led to less emphasis on sex in recent years. However, as will be noted, key aspects of recent messages still revolve around covert and manipulative elements rather than overt messages.

To find the semi-subliminal lettering in the other Benson & Hedges ads just relax and let your attention run freely over the ads illustrated below [not illustrated in this excerpt]. Aim to ignore the overall impression of the ad and focus your attention simply on the background or the different elements of the ads. Consider, for example, those that contain the letters that form the brand name, either arranged on music sheets, scattered over a head of shaving foam, or strung on a washing line.

In the adverts whose main elements are letters, it is usual to find that the s and the e, both letters within the Benson & Hedges brand name, are larger, and differ in colour, from the letters surrounding them. There is no letter x in Benson & Hedges. But, with semi-subliminal artwork, it only requires some �touching up� of some other element in the advert to produce a close approximation of an X. Some examples could include a straight edge with another object 'crossing' the edge. This could conveniently produce the perception of the sequence, s e and x. Changes in colour tone can also suggest the third 'missing' letter and the ampersand symbol (&) occasionally also comes in useful as a substitute for x.

Somtime the x is presented in a subtle, semi-subliminal, manner in the background texture of an advert. This kind of approach can be considered the equivalent to the numbers used in the Ishihara test of colour vision. In this test, various colour dots in the shape of numerals stand out from the background, unless one has deficient colour vision. In a similar manner, but this time oriented to viewers with normal vision, the letters s e x can be presented in a semi-subliminal manner in the background of an advert.

One other factor works in favour of a viewer preconsciously identifying the word sex, even if all of the letters are not apparent. That is pre-existing knowledge.

In most relevant ads, the letters are above the level of perceptual recognition. This, in themselves, they have no meaning. However, if one is attempting to extract meaning from a jumble of letters, as would be normal practice when reading, how many short, familiar, words do you know beginning SE or containing the letters SX?. The choice is clearly limited as any Scrabble fan will note.

The Benson & Hedges 'letter' adverts require considerably less 'interpretation' than others. The basic message in each is conveyed by the letters s e and x. Some, in fact, are extremely ingenious. These perhaps rely overmuch on the enthusiasm of artists, intent on incorporating into the adverts elements based on intuitive knowledge of human perception or psychological research. The ads may overemphasise technique at the expense of persuasion power. In the process they downplay scientific knowledge. However, it is also possible the ads simply reflect an uncertain state of knowledge regarding the ability of semi-subliminal artwork to persuade the consumer. When there is uncertainty regarding which elements with semi-subliminal ads are effective, but commercial results indicate they are effective, then almost anything may be considered worth trying.

Consider, for example, the 'variation' on Japanese script in a Benson & Hedges advert whose principal elements are Japanese fans. It is relatively easy to interpret the roughly scrawled characters on the left hand side of the advert as the two words sex and SKIN. And, in an advert whose principle element is a carpenter�s plane, wood shavings neatly defy the laws of physics. Instead of curling inwards into a circular form, as would normally happen, the wood shaving first curves slightly backwords and then forwards. It thus forms a somewhat flattened S. There is no additional lettering evident alongside the S but highlighting of the plane handle could produce strong projective imagery of the letter X had viewers been exposed to previous adverts. Such a judgement would, however, be in error. The flattened wood shaving forming the letter S is primarily intended to influence the viewers 'line of sight' and lead attention to the word sexXX presented in semi-subliminal letters in the Ishihara fashion in the background.

This mode of semi-subliminal embedding of letters mimics, to some extent, the classic '60's fashion for reproducing semi-subliminal letters in the background of adverts. Generally, as Wilson Key reported, the �lettering� is repeated more than once. When letters are repeated, and form part of a pattern, it not easy to detect their presence consciously, but presumably their consistent �appearance� in a long running series of adverts fulfils a useful commercial function for the advertising companies.

Sex, as the reader probably now appreciates, was for many years the predominant semi-subliminal element in Benson & Hedges adverts. Among the many variations, some were pretty straightforward, almost boring. Within this category were the shapes incorporated into an ad based upon paper weights. In three of the paperweights, one above the other, could be found the three 'letters' s, e and x. The s was simply a curved strand embedded in the first paperweight. The e was a short section of spiralling embed, whilst the x was formed from a twisted embed, reminiscent of a bow tie.

More complex, and interesting to the professional observor, were the �letters� in the Benson & Hedges 'washing line' advert. In this advert, the letters forming the brand name Benson & Hedges were strung out on a washing line. As noted above, there is no letter X in Benson & Hedges. However, the ampersand symbol (&) came in handy as a useful substitute.

The technique in the washing line advert was considerably more sophisticated than those evident in the majority of Benson & Hedges adverts. Perception of the message in the ad is not reliant on static stimuli. It was intended to be perceived in the manner equivalent to the frames of a film or pages in �flip-page� books. When the pages are 'flipped' at speed or a series of film frames are presented in sequence, the series of images merge, giving the impression of movement to the static series of drawings or pictures.

The ad may have been based on flip-books or it may have been an adaptation from research using a device known as a tachistoscope. Tachistoscopic presentations involve slide projectors or computers capable of presenting pictures, slides or images for very brief periods of time. Usually the presentations last for only a few milliseconds.

[ A simple example of a tachistoscopic type presentation can be found embedded in the banner heading on this page. The word 'almost' is presented for a brief period of time amongst a number of presentations of the word Semi. Although almost is presented for longer than the typical tachistoscope presentation, it is still easily overlooked because of the repeated presentation of semi. Because of the rapid presentation rate, viewers are unable to recognise the separate images and �combine� these into one compound image. Viewers are thus unaware of the different elements which contribute to the compound image. ]

With variations in the speed of presentation, the same technique can be used to mask or �blot out� recognition of one image if another is presented immediately afterwards. Unlike film and other moving media, in printed adverts the rate of presentation cannot be varied. If movement is crucial to interpretation, then this movement must originate with the viewer. This is precisely what happened with the Benson & Hedges 'washing line' ad. To simulate tachistoscope or flip page presentations, the three 'letters', S E and &, were positioned in the Benson & Hedges advert as follows:first the & sign and then the S and E in that order.

The ordering of &, S and E clearly does not correspond to the word sex. In fact it could readily be argued that the three 'letters' are coincidental. And seemingly they would not, could not, and were not, intended to influence consumers by presenting a sexually laden, semi-sublimimessage. However, with such ads, one is dealing with perceptions, not conscious recognition. Reflecting upon what is noted after observing an ad, whether it be the �lettering� on the washing line or any other ad, is not comparable to knowledge of what may have been preconsciously perceived. In other words, the brain can function in a manner that 'makes' sense of the apparently nonsensical 'lettering'.

Despite the original ordering of & S E, given ingenious perceptual management, and appropriate viewing conditions, it is possible to produce the perception of SE&. In other words, although looking at the ad would lead to the conscious conclusion that one was viewing &SE, preconsciously one could perceive SE&. Or, to convert the 'letters' into something more meaningfully, it is SEX that would be perceived.

The reasons why the perception is likely to be different from the original presentation is as follows. The letters S and the E were larger than the & sign and coloured red. All the other letters on the washing line were coloured black. The ampersand sign was also coloured red but it was smaller than the S and the E.

This colouring and arrangement of the three 'letters' was not accidental.

When drivers approached a hoarding containing the 'washing line' ad they would initially notice a set of black and red letters against a black background, possibly hanging on a clothes line. The dark background of the advert initially dominates the field of vision and �disguises� the black lettering, leaving the key red letters �highlighted�.

As they approach the hoarding, the letters S and E become salient because of their size and colouring. This �highlighting� process would be particularly powerful when observed by UK drivers passing the advert if it were displayed on the right hand side of the road.

The perceptual contrast between the dark background and the coloured items on the washing line also applies to the red ampersand symbol. For a brief moment following the perception of SE the smaller and similarly coloured & sign would also stand out from the background. The order in which the three coloured letters were perceived is thus different from the order of presentation. The only meaningful word in the viewers mental lexicon likely to be �triggered� by SE&, is the word sex.

A similar re-ordering of perceptual information will occur as a reader of a newspaper turns the pages, and particularly when the advert is placed on the right hand page or a double page spread is used. First the S and E will be noticed and then as the focal pint of attention moves across the page & will come into focus.

In terms of artistic merit, the Benson & Hedges advertising team have clearly got to be congratulated. Despite using a static two dimensional image, the 'washing line' advert makes very effective use of the interaction between the moving driver (or a reader turning a page) and the advert. The combination produces an outcome equivalent to that using tachistoscopic presentions or flip pages.

As with other Benson & Hedges ads, there also would appear to be additional cues in this ad to �suggest� that the three washing line 'letters' be interpreted as SEX. In the clouds behind the washing line are numerous, incomplete, 'letters'. These are produced by variations in colouring, giving swirls and lines that, without difficulty, can also be interpreted as S�s E�s and X�s. These partial letters complement the �letters� on the washing line and further enhance the �sexy� nature of Benson & Hedges cigarettes.

To the average viewer the manifest meaning of the washing line ad would simply have been 'another surreal advert' from Benson & Hedges. The latent message will, however, have associated Benson & Hedges with sexual activity, values and interests. A lay person contemplating this advert would never consciously appreciate its complexity, nor give consideration to the perceptual processes that operate �behind the scenes� in the brain, attempting to �make sense� of such ads. Overall, it is an example of mind manipulation at its most subtle, devious and dangerous.

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Excerpt 4 : Notes for a chapter on

Advertising and Art : The language of images.

[This fourth excerpt/set of notes is heavier going than the other three and will be clarified and simplified in due course.]

The perception of two dimensional images

E.H. Gombrich, the author of Art & Illusion, subtitled A study in the psychology of pictorial representation, states that shapes, marks, lines, shades and colours have a mysterious way of signifying and suggesting things other than themselves. Any cartoonist, caricaturist, artist and advertiser would agree with him: attraction to and use of the elemental characteristics of art have been used to represent aspects of reality ever since man first produced cave drawings. Over many centuries such activities produced the world of art. More recently they have produced the world of advertising.

As readers are now aware, it is with those marks and shapes that are semi-subliminal in nature, and yet seem to have the capacity to influence some of those who view them, that form the basis of the case presented in Sexy, �Subliminal� and Deadly? To make sense of semi-subliminal images it is necessary to note that distinctions between objects, categories and classes of objects and actions, do not exist in reality. Although it is second nature to accept that such features and categories of the real world do exist, they are actually constructions of our social world. We learn that they exist but they exist only in our minds.

Chapter X noted that it is only through the impact of learning and culture that we share the same or similar notions of what constitutes an object, an image or an action. We thus share the same �delusion� of a world that is �outside of us�, awaiting appreciation.

Each person, in general, has, stored in their memory, representations of reality. And it is important to note that we do not perceive reality directly. Reality is only perceived indirectly, after applying various �rules� acquired on the basis of experience in order to make sense of ambiguous sensory inputs.

Hogarth�s famous print of a countryside scene with impossible perspectives stands alongside the impossible objects in the work of Escher to convey to the viewer that what is perceived on a two dimensional surface depends upon the automatic application of rules or conventions. The two dimensional images of advertising is only a partial representation of reality and thus possesses different characteristics from three dimensional environmental reality. The elements of two dimensional adverts also have to conform to a set of rules that have been learned. And it is these rules that viewers apply, automatically, to adverts in order to make sense of them.

Book cover : Visual PersuasionPaul Messaris, in his book Visual Persuasion, states that the visual images in adverts can play three major roles, once they are identified. They can elicit emotions, by presenting the viewer with an image representing a real person, object or place that means something to the viewer. Or they can serve as a record that something exists or has happened. Finally, they can also form new associations between one object, place, or person and another. An additional category worthy of consideration are the activities that took place when the objects, places and persons were initially learned about.

Activities involve people, objects and places. And activities constitute a discrete category of mental events that can be illustrated and thought about independently of any contributory elements. The roles played by the component parts of an image or advert are thus not independent of those portrayed by the image or advert as a whole. Additionally, one has to note that adverts are communications, and the component images require presentation in conjunction with various combinations of linguistic, para-linguistic and semi-subliminal factors in attempts to persuade consumers. How these combinations of visual images and other factors are to be interpreted is a matter of considerable theoretical speculation and research.

Linguistic communications can simply be considered in terms of their syntactic and semantic properties. Rrespectively, these refer to how the different elements of the communication are structured and how they relate to meaning. These properties of communications are the central interest of the field of semiotics, the study of shapes, marks, lines, shades and colours in terms of their meaning. To semioticians any mark, movement, symbol, token, etc that is used to indicate or convey thoughts, information, commands, etc. is classified as a �sign�. {An example of the semioticians art is evident in an extract from the novel Nice Work by David Lodge. Lodge neatly dissects the meaning hiding behind an ad for Silk Cut cigarettes. This is quoted in the chapter devoted to analyses of Silk Cut ads.}

Signs generally fall into three classes: iconic, indexical and symbolic. Iconic signs are those which possess some similarity to that which is signified. For example, a picture of a camel is an iconic sign for a real camel. Notably, the camel in an advert for Camel cigarettes is an iconic sign for the cigarettes.

Even simple iconic images such as cartoon strips or line drawings trigger meaningful sets of associations and emotional responses in viewers. In recent years, iconicity has taken on a higher degree of importance in advertising due to the globalisation of the market place. There is seemingly because there is a perceived need to use images to help advertising cross cultural and linguistic barriers. In furtherance of this goal, icons were initially considered to share a universal meaning. However, recent research indicates that subtle differences in the interpretation of icons may undermine the universal appeal of such ads.

Indexical signs are those which offer some indication (or proof) of the sign. For example, the tyre tracks of a car are a physical sign of a car or of car tyres (recollect the many adverts that simply rely on tread marks to indicate the existance of a tyres or a car). And a scratch is an indexical sign of the person who did the scratching.

When adverts offer �proof�, then it is clear the ads possesses indexicality. The proof may the comparison of two baskets of washing, demonstrating that a product washes cleaner and whiter than its competitors. Or there may be a celebrity endorsement in which a famous athlete, actor or singer �uses, recommends or is seen with� a product.

Symbolic signs possess neither similarity nor a physical relationship to whatever is Bodyf orm ad.signified. The relationship between them is fairly arbitrary, relying for their validity on a set of social conventions e.g. the rose in the Bodyform sanitary pad advert on the left (Figure X). Also extremely important in terms of indexical relationships, one should note that different languages possess different words signifiying the same object.

Classes of images are not mutually exclusive and any image may fall into more than one class. All images, for example, possess iconicity and images can range from the simplistic to the complex. Simplistic images can be as basic as a line, indicating a road on a map, or a childish stick drawing. The most complex of images are photographs but even these o not convey all the properties of reality. Photographs, for all their apparent vividness and ability to convey a three dimensional reality, are only two dimensional representations of that reality. And, for a variety of reasons, aesthetic and functional, unadulterated photographs are rarely used in adverts for branded goods.

It is only when the visual input from which signs are extracted is supplemented by knowledge of what is already known (memories) that the sign is known for what it represents. In other words every image is only a partial representation of an object. This is true even of photographic reproductions.

The veridicality of images

Photographs, films, videotapes, footprints, fingerprints, record cards, newspaper and thermometers are among the various means of recording information about events. All of these would seem to offer a measure of proof that the event which produced the indexical sign actually occurred. They seem almost as trustworthy as a fingerprint would be as evidence. However, photographs, and other measures of indexicality, can easily be manufactured, edited, �touched-up� and �doctored�. In an age where computer technology progresses by leaps and bounds, photographic records, whether on film or captured electronically, can no longer offer a record of the truth, even although they seem to offer the same implicit assurance of a true record of an event or object as their predecessors gave some decades ago. With the developing state of digital imaging technology, leading to wholesale electronic encoding of photographs for transmission and storage, the electronic editing and selection of unrepresentative photographs, the creation of photomontages and construction of misleading series of photographs, can all occur virtually at will.

If so desired, the changes that have been wrought in electronic records can leave virtually no trace for any observor attempting to determine if alterations have been made. Images can have elements added to them, have them removed, duplicated, linked together, substituted or changed. Almost any form of change imaginable can now be made using electronic means. People can be made shorter, taller, more attractive, less attractive, etc.

American research indicates that some 90% of commercials currently use some form of digital effect. Just over a decade ago the figure was less then 10%. Photography as a medium with a reputation for a relatively veridical and truthful relationship with reality will soon be an arcane notion. Photography will become just another means of crafting a version of reality as unreality becomes (virtual) reality. A typical outcome may be that evident in one American ad for Betty Crocker cake mix. The ad used a composite image made from some 60 American women to produce an image representing the average woman.

As the cake mix ad and other ads and images indicate, photographs can lie. Real life relationships or views may bear no relationship to what is depicted in ads or any other image. Ads, as with photographs, can be touched up or creatively developed in such a way that real life disappears. Recent TV commercials, along with their associated printed counterparts, for John Smith's beer and Coca Cola, rely upon surrealistic dancing penguins and polar bears. These possess remarkable human characteristics but they have no basis in reality. Others ads and commercial shave athletes, animals and cyclists competing in impossible situations. All these commercials and adverts were created with the use of computer technology and software packages. Even although printed images seem to possess a limited set of features when compared to animated TV commercials, by virtue of links between different aspects of the same promotional 'package', the printed image manage to produce some of the same emotional and intellectual responses in viewers. There is �carry-over� from one medium to another or, as semioticians would state, there is a set of complex intertextual relationships.

With the growing popularity of camcorders, electronic cameras and photo-editing software, any member of the public can produce their own version of indexicality. It is relatively easy to modify photographic and other records without leaving a trace of the modification process. Economical printing facilities offer high quality reproduction in the hands of amateurs. Photographs will then only retain credibility as a communication medium of importance and a record of human endeavour in the hands of individuals who have a reputation for presenting the truth. When photographs are used in ads, it will be difficult to determine 'truth' from 'virtual reality'.

In order to assess any form of photographic record members of the public will need to learn more about the processes, politics and personalities behind the media. Specialist commentators already believe that consumers view of adverts now take into account their trust, not simply in the celebrity presenters, but in the individuals who produce the advert and those who display them. A similar complex assessment process will need to develop within the near future with regard to all indexical signs as displayed in ads.

Visual Syntax

Although ad images possess variable characteristics, which may or may not have a veridical relationship with reality, the theoretical framework(s) produced by semioticians are necessary for any meaningful analysis. If one is to discuss adverts and the changes taking place in the media using them, it is notable that the indexical properties of the images in an advert mean that much more can be extracted in terms of meaning from an ad than �meets the eye�. However, going beyond the separate elements means that any attempt to make sense of an advert has to rely primarily upon subjective judgements and social concensus. There is, as yet, no scientific �language� to explain and make sense of the relationships between these images.

Visual communications [unlike language] do not possess an explicit syntax for expressing analogies, contrasts, causal claims, and the other kinds of propositional relationships that link, separate, compare, and contrast the elements of linguistic communications. The study of images has not yet produced a theoretical structure that will explain or define the relationships between one image and another. It would seem as though media researchers, such as Messaris, are still a considerable way from such a theory. Interpretation, and of course the construction, of adverts thus remains, for the present, an art rather than a precise social science.

The slight progress that has been made in developing a semblance of visual syntax relates more to tv commercials than to printed media. Ever since Eisenstein produced his classic cross-cutting montage of images in the film The Battledship Potemkin, the cross-cutting of images in film or on TV has been accepted as establishing a meaningful relationship between images in the mind of the viewer. It is nevertheless a very limited relationship, indicating essentially that both events took place at the same time in different places. Anything else �drawn from� the images is due to the idiosyncractic interpretation of the viewer and cultural norms. Something akin to this type of relationship can be produced in printed media using collages.

Even with montages and collages the meaning drawn from images can mean different thing in different contexts, unlike the meaning extracted from a sentence. Such visual syntax as exists is extremely fluid in respect to the syntactic structures of other forms of communication, and variations can also occur within the same contexts, when viewed at different times or in different moods .

The veridicality of non-photographic signs

In addition to photographs, cartoons, sketches, paintings or adverts, whether in colour or black and white, also possess the power to recreate for viewers a representation of the real world. They can all convey sufficient information about the objects they depict that they are recognised as representations of reality.

The reasons these reactions occur is because real world vision is intimately tied in with experiences and emotions. Each individual has learned particular preferences, likes and dislikes, for specific objects and activities. In addition they have biological predispositions or response preferences for particular types of images. These learned and biological factors are �ingrained� in the individual. If images possess sufficient features indicative of reality, viewers react to these images as if they were viewing the real world. Classic examples are how different body shapes, skin tones, facial structures and variations in the size of eye pupils, bring about different responses from different age groups, genders and personality types. One need only consider the standard head and shoulders frontspiece of magazines to appreciate how much of an impact the selection of the 'right' type of image makes on audiences.

Related to the images themselves are the techniques used by technicians to vary and control responses. They can �place� viewers at different distances or different angles to the image being viewed. Compare the empty spaces of many Marlboro ads with the use of celebrity spokespersons. Or whether full face or distant views are provided of key individuals. An equally powerful technique is the use of subjective shots to �place� the viewer 'in the shoes' of the individuals within the ad.

These formal or stylistic features are a secondary form of iconic relationship, as they mimic aspects of real world experiences. They are also useful means of manipulating emotional and cognitive responses. Consider for example close-up, full face, shots in comparison to long distance or sideways viewing of an individual. The Kodak advert presented in Figure X provides two views of the same scene. Each evokes different emotional and cognitive responses. The responses to variations in the presentation of images are thus in accord with what would happen in the real world, where viewing had equivalent features. Approaching, removing from, obtaining intimacy and distancing oneself are all actions that produce emotional reactions. And these can be mimicked in any form of imagery.

Magazine adverts may also combine the iconic properties of objects with features that complement the basic message and change the indexical meaning. For example the use of colours, tones and shapes, and style of presentation, are conventionally associated with gender, social class or economic status. Ads for goods such as Bally shoe ads and Dior clothes present signs (a shoe or a dress) indistinguishable from those for other brands of footwear and clothing. However the ads present the signs in a manner that makes clear to the viewer that they can be distinguished from other goods. Compare, for example, the style of ads for 'sports shoes with street credibility� against equivalent shoewear brands for elite markets, as presented in magazines such a Vogue.

What is deemed a sufficient set of features to trigger a response in viewers is constantly changing under the impact of experience. For example, nowadays viewers are extremely sophisticated. They generally would not cringe with fear, even when presented with fearsome three dimensional images amidst the current tendency to develop ever more realistic virtual reality complexes and fairground simulators. This would not have been the case earlier this century. Viewers of the first �moving photographs� ran from cinemas to escape the train 'approaching them' on the screen, as it was �about to crash into them�. However, given appropriate conditions, instinctive responses are still likely, even when we know we are watching a film or videotaped programme. Tearjerkers, horror movies and dramatic thrillers are stock examples of real life being manipulated in the short term by images.

Advertising conventions differ from those of film and TV but lack of movement is compensated for by the use of humour, allusions, metaphor, analogies or semi-subliminal images and other techniques. Because of the strong set of biological and learned factors internalised on the basis of personal experience, each well constructed advert still retains the power to influence emotions and cognitions. This power to induce emotional responses and intellectual judgements often occurs, despite the fact that the vast majority of individuals prefer not to view or watch persuasive communications.

Henrik Dahl argued that few individuals, other than professionals interested in the subject, actively seek out adverts with the intention of viewing them. The small number of professionals, such as the author, who pay reasonably close attention to adverts, view ads in a different manner from the lay person. But, in addition, they do not wish the ads to fulfil their natural persuasive function. What should function at a preconscious level, in many instances become the focus of conscious attention.

Attracting attention: consciously and without conscious awareness

Many printed adverts are constructed from images that do not possess photographic qualities. They are therefore clearly only representations of objects in the real world. Adverts may also use presentational techniques that further reduce the degree of veridicality between the real world and their representation in adverts. In using these techniques advertisers have considerable scope to violate reality and incorporate �attention grabbing� elements e.g. adverts for Smirnoff Mule.

Smirnoff Mule ads are based on the the technique known as morphing, in which one image is progressively modified until it looks like something completely different. For example, an automobile can be progressively modified into a person or vice versa. In many TV commercials and films such as The Face the use of morphing techniques can produce �rubber lipped� characters and other interesting and attention grabbing deviations from reality.

Intermediate stages between two identifiable images possess some of the characteristics of each. It is thus not possible to categorise the intermediate image as one or the other. Because each element is recognisable, viewers judgements may fluctuate between the two elements embedded in the adverts, just as they do when viewing visual illusions with two possible interpretations.

Ads containing semi-subliminal images clearly also deviate from reality. But, if the intention is to attract attention, then dancing penguins, talking prunes, attractive actors, garish colours, zippered mouths, maniacal lettering and assorted other images, all do the job better. If the attraction of attention is an unlikely justification for the use of semi-subliminal images, how can they be justified and how do they fit into the structure of persuasive communications?

One answer presumably lies in our perceptual systems and the learning which takes place over a lifetime. Each person develops a keen sense of what is normal and what is to be expected. Any deviation from this attracts attention. Continual confrontation with deviations from normality lead to modification of the internal representation of normality, such that the deviation no longer attracts the same degree of attention. It is simply accepted and responded to when appropriate.

Experiments with young children provide excellent examples of this process at work. Somewhat paradoxically, but perfectly meaningful in the context of the minor changes which constitute secondary imagery, Shepard notes that slight deviations from normality often attract the most attention.

One should however note that learning experiences do not always �match� reality and people are subject to fallacious beliefs. Gombrich gives one interesting insight into how the knowledge of the world that we perceive may differ from that which we think we perceive. He notes that if one looks at oneself in a mirror, preferably one that is slightly steamed up, and trace�s the outline of the reflection in the mirror, the resulting tracing will be half the size of one�s actual head. The half size outline is what we actually view but it does not match with our perception of reality. We continue to �see� our head as actual size.

Another false perception of reality is evident when asked to close our eyes and judge the position of one�s eye. Are the eyes one third of the way up ones head? Half way up the head? Or three quarters of the way up one�s head?

Despite the fact that all normally sighted individuals have been viewing people�s heads all their lives, the majority of individuals answer three quarters. Yet the answer is actually half, as can be gauged by observation.

The importance of context

Just as judgements based on morphing fluctuates, judgements regarding the visual anomalies encountered in adverts containing semi-subliminal images may fluctuate before settling on a stable judgement. Consider for example, the psychological processing of information that occurred when Benson & Hedges presented their image of an electric plug, with the wiring twisted into the shape of an image with subsidiary features, namely the word sex (see above). In this case realism has not been violated. The primary categories of memory that are �triggered� relate to electric plugs and Benson and Hedges cigarettes. Sex is a subsidiary category. But, as in visual illusions and the Moscow Mule ad, the Benson & Hedges elements are incongrous and the elements do not naturally compliment each other. Studies of visual illusions indicate that conflicting interpretations of images cannot be held in mind at the same time. The sexual element in the Benson & Hedges advert is thus likely to be minimalised in terms of the emotional impact it makes because more reasonable alternatives are open to the viewer. But, nevertheless, although the sexual element of the ad will be discounted, this will not occur before some of the emotional elements associated with mental schemas devoted to sex have been 'considered' in conjunction with the principal element, namely Benson & Hedges. This will occur in the same manner that �kick� becomes associated with the Moscow Mule, as both ads offer signs to the viewer that require interpretation. This interprtation takes place in terms of the allusional and connotational properties of the images and their salience within a specific context or frame of reference. With the Benson & Hedges ad the framework is smoking, with the Moscow Mule ad it is drinking.

Gombrich�s book Art and Illusion provides two additional examples of how contextualBook cover@ Gombrich's Art and Illusion information provides the ideal means of �coverting� an index into a variety of indexical signs. The first is from a series of posters produced by E.C.Tatum for London Transport in the 1940�s and 1950�s. These illustrate the process at a supraliminal level. The �bull�s eye� symbol of London Transport replaces a range of pictorial images. These include the heads of cartoon characters, buttons on jackets and letters within captions. When the context leads the viewer to expect a head, they perceive the London Transport logo as a head, when the context is buttons on a jacket, the logo is perceived as a button. Whilst the logo within the various contexts is ubiquitous, and can be interpreted as any element that can be represented by the logo, the viewer can only see one interpretation at a time, as 'fixed' by the context.

The second example is even more interesting and reliant on context. It is a cartoon drawn by Saul Steinberg and demonstrates the limits of what can be conveyed in pictures. Steinberg's cartoon depicts a single line drawn across the full width of a two page spread. This line changes its meaning according to each of five different situations through which it passes. First the line is perceived to be the horizon, then it becomes a washing line, then it assumes the role appropriate to the top of a railway viaduct, then the edge of a table, and finally the line is the angular junction between a wall and ceiling. The line changes its 'meaning' according to the surrounding contextual information. This leads viewers to read into situations that which does not in itself exist but is a construct of the interpretation based on previous experience.

Metaphor and semi-subliminal images

A narrow definition of a visual metaphor would be the �representation of an abstract concept through the use of a visual image that shares some analogical relationship with the concept.� Many artistic images present metaphorical messages concerning responsiveness, admiration, warmth, comfort, freedom, attraction, security, identity and so on. Advertising does likewise, and the qualities that can be presented in secondary imagery, although generally limited, need be no less sophisticated. One cigarette advert, for example, emphasised the suppression of freedom of expression. Other cigarette adverts, including many for Benson & Hedges, combine images in attempts to present metaphorical messages concerning self inadequacy, insecurity and mortality. Superficially, the ads seem to simply be offering a succession of surrealistic type images, presumably to appeal to viewers who associate surrealism with sophistication and superior status. However, their deeper meaning is usually related to insecurity, death and anxiety.

In addition to metaphorical messages, if advertisers are dealing with attitudes that are somewhat superficial, and �politically� or �socially correct�, but there is little personal commitment or involvement with the relevant issues, then it makes sense to offer oblique commentaries and make use of semi-subliminal images. These will undoubtedly be less likely to offend, �raise hackles� or be problematic to the uncommitted person. Reaction against, or resistance to, the message is not only minimised, it cannot be articulated as there will have been no conscious awareness of, nor recollection of, the message.

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