The Subliminalworld web site began as a brief foray into the world of the web. It was expected to take a few weeks to develop and present a number of examples of 'subliminal' advertising. Ultimately, it has taken almomst 2 years of my spare time to 'complete'. The contents of this site has clearly grown considerably over this period of time and a number of reasons indicate that it will continue to develop in size and complexity, although not necessarily on this site. Tobacco ads are likely to move to a new site, presented using more up to date software and techniques.
Since its initial inception as a site to offer examples of 'subliminal' advertising one major change has taken place. In collecting and cataloguing a collection of semi-subliminal and manipulative ads it has become clear that the most assiduous proponents of these techniques are tobacco companies. Organisations such as ASH in the United States and the United Kingdom have often portrayed tobacco companies as deceitful and manipulative. After analysing many cigarette ads the author concurs, unreservedly, with such judgements. In second place - but a long way behind - are brewers and distillers. The goals associated with the site have therefore changed.
The original goal was simply to provide objective and accurate information and examples across the range of 'subliminal' advertising, regardless of the products the ads were promoting. Now, where the advertising relates to cigarettes and other tobacco products, the commentary has been extended to provide additional information about the Machiavellian activities of the major tobacco companies and their primary product, cigarettes. In due course, a separate web site will be devoted to cigarette advertising.
The action of tobacco companies, unlike many of the other companies involved, will contribute to bringing an early death to many millions of people around the world and suffering to many millions more. The companies claim that smoking is a matter of freedom of choice among adults well informed about the health risks involved. This may be so but, as a psychologist familiar with many theories of human growth and development, I know that as individuals we are never as free in making choices as we think we are. We often operate on 'auto pilot' and let 'our feelings over-ride our heads'. Such habitual and emotionally influenced responses are due in large part to our exposure to social constraints and the acquisition of knowledge over many years, from early childhood into adulthood. Even if never consciously attended to, these often have an influence upon decision making of all kinds, including whether or not to smoke. In other words, decision making is rarely as rational as one might suppose it to be.
Yet, even if these theories were wrong, and individuals were completely autonomous individuals, completely free to make the choice as to whether to smoke or not, tobacco companies do not leave the individual to make this 'free' choice. Although tobacco companies have been promoting issues concerning the notion of free choice, in their use of 'subliminal' advertising they indulge in advertising practices that attempt to subvert freedom of choice in smokers and others.
Admittedly, 'subliminal' advertising is probably a relatively unimportant factor in individuals taking up smoking, but, if cigarette smoking is 'addictive', it is clear that three quarters of smokers are well on the way to being addicted to nicotine before they reach the age of 18. It therefore seems desirable that tobacco companies should not be allowed to subvert any agreement they are forced into by legislation or pubic pressure or make use of any form of unethical advertising. And their current unethical practices should be brought under public scrutiny.
The interpretations and examples presented within this web site will undoubtedly be countered by the relevant companies and their advertising agencies. Tobacco companies in particularly are likely to object. But the objections of tobacco company spokesperson, in particular, will have little validity. It would seem that one cannot trust companies whose chief executives as late as 1994 swore in a court of law that their products were not addictive. If they state that they do not use subliminal advertising, then the examples illustrated on this site indicate that they are adopting the disingenuous Clinton defence, 'subliminal advertising is what we presume it to be and we do not use it'. Whatever their beliefs and statements are on the matter of 'subliminal' advertising they should make clear that if they deny what is patently evident they should acknowledge they are relying upon a disingenuous and/or non-standard definition of the word subliminal, just as they personally re-defined 'addiction' to mean what they wanted it to mean in 1994.
I thank all of the individuals noted on the pages noted below for their love, affection, friendship and support.
The Dedication Page has multiple parts: click any of the tokens to continue
(Part 1) Fiona & Sarah, (Part 2) Pat, (Part 3) Friends & Colleagues,
( Part 4) OU students, ( Part 5) Other Interested Parties.
Last Revised: 3rd January, 2003