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Concluding Commentary

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The conclusions that have arisen from the construction of this web site are remarkably simple.

1) The views of the much maligned Wilson Key have been supported. Semi-subliminal advertising is alive and well. Moreover, over the past year or so 'subliminal' techniques seem to be moving from the advertising domain into the domain of packaging e.g. Coca Cola, Budwieser and other packages for a range of Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG's) now contain 'subliminal' elements.

Key of course was concerned with the whole spectrum of what he called subliminal advertising, from the perceptible to the truly subliminal. Unfortunately the terminology he used has 'stuck' even though it has ultimately become extremely misleading. Most so called subliminal advertising is not subliminal, it can be examined and is thus semi-subliminal or maginally perceptible in nature, hence the need for inverted commas around the word 'subliminal'./

2) Advertising agencies and their professional bodies continue to deny the existence of such advertising. If they implicitly accept its existence, they consider it acceptable practice (see correspondence with the ASA , IPA and AAAA).

3) The most assiduous users of semi-subliminal techniques are tobacco companies and other major multinational corporations (see index of contents).

4) The use of semi-subliminal techniques is not a sporadic and idiosyncratic technique. The major players use such techniques consistently and have often been using them for extended periods of time (years).

5) There is a need to determine whether such advertising is effective either by forcing such companies to disclose their research findings (they are unlikely to do so voluntarily) or by appropriate research studies.

6) If the companies using these techniques have found them effective i.e. any of their customers have been influenced by semi-subliminal aspects of adverts, then thier customers as consumers have a right to claim redress. Any such influence denies the consumer the right to freedom of choice.

To determine influence, it is not necessary to demonstrate any influence on any specific individual and their behaviour i.e. the type of evidence obtained within experimental laboratory studies. It will be sufficient to demonstrate that the use of such techniques increases sales over that of equivalent advertising that does not contain semi-subliminal material. Whatever the actual mechanism or process at work, if semi-subliminal advertising is effective it is unethical.

7) It will be desirable, if evaluation studies demonstrate that such advertising is commercially effective, to determine who and in what circumstances people can be influenced. Are children, for example, more susceptible than adults to semi-subliminal embedded material?

8) By implication, if print advertising is effective, then the use of electronic media such as the Internet is liable to become the next means of putting these techniques into practice. A current handbook on the Advertising Industry already baldly states that the Internet is being used to test subliminal advertising, though it does not define what is meant by subliminal. Consumers - especially smokers - beware!

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To the best of the author's knowledge none of the illustrations, in the format used on this site, are subject to copyright. If copyright has been inadvertently breached please contact the author in order to rectify the matter. All brands and logos referred to or illustrated on this site are the property of the relevant companies and copyright holders. However, commentary and other information produced by the author can be freely copied and distributed. Similarly, illustrations of ads, so long as they are accompanied by commentary or are presented in the form of parody, can also be copied and distributed but please acknowledge as the source. Translation of tobacco company ads and relevant commentary into languages other than English will be particularly welcomed.

Last Revised: 3rd January, 2003


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