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Perpetual  thumbnail for Perpetual ad Marlboro Marlboro cowborys Botticelli Boticellie's Primavera

 Benson and Hedges Benson and Hedges Mexican Wave Unattributed US ad Unidentified US ad.          


Perpetually Happy  

 Perpetual advert featuring the Perpetual Mountain (with face).Here are some illustrations of a very successful  ad for  Perpetual investment management. It has been in use for a considerable period of time and consistent use can be considered a reasonable indicator of a successful ad.  For another ad with a considerably longer pedigree making use of a similar feature see the Gibbs SR ad. Americans are more familiar with Joe Isuzu on a mountain top, complete with facial impression on the mountainside.

Considering that the Perpetual ad simply featured a mountain peak, one might ask why it is so successful? The reason might be because it is not simply a picture of a mountain peak. It is a mountain peak with face appeal as closer attention to the areas circled in the rollover over images (below right) will reveal.

Perpetual Mountain 'faces'.Petpetual Mountain 'faces'. Note that towards the peak of the mountain there are some of the features of a human face. Underneath a rounded 'cap', the 'face' has a rather broad, flattened, nose that runs up into the forehead.   Could it be this that makes this a more appealing ad than usual? In the rollover images there does, in fact, seem to be more than one face that is evident. These may be an artefact of the reduced size but note that the faces each convey a different emotion, from concerned to worried. This ad doesn't intend to convey Click for a larger, floating, image. Perpetual newspaper ad. happiness, that doesn't lead to taking out insurance. However, it is unlikely that the 'faces' are simply artefacts. The ad seeminlgy bears comparison with John Nash's painting on Faces Part I.

Incidentally, an additional 'face' become evident when viewing the newspaper version of this ad (illustrated left), rather than the magazine version. If one applies a slight stretch of the imagination, the entire mountainside can be perceived as one very angular face rather like an ape with a diamond shaped snout and mouth. Believe it or leave it. The choice is yours.

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Cheerful Chaps

Rollover image showing 'face' on the cowboy's chaps.Here is an example of the much more subtle type of face that Marlboro ads are notorious for. Or at least they would be notorious for if enough people knew about the attempts by Philip Morris and Co to manipulate the feelings and thoughts of smokers and others who view their ads.  The image on the left is an extract from the advert illustrated below. It is extracted from the chaps of the cowboy on the right.

Even at relatively low resolution on a computer screen you should be able to discern a profiled image of a 'bust' looking towards the left. It is, admittedly, not very clear and recognition of this 'face' Click for a larger, floating, image. Marlboro cowboys having fun despite the intruding 'face'.relies to some extent upon a degree of familiarity with the techniques used to embed such elements in Marlboro ads in general. The rollover indicates its position but does nothing to enhance its visibility. Click on the rollover to take you to a larger image of this part of the ad. If the 'bust' is still not evident then viewers should review some of the Psychology page contents to appreciate why, when extracted from its natural context, an image can become less clear rather than more readily visible.

This 'face' is notable for its line of gaze, as was the case in the Bergasol ad discussed elsewhere on this site.  If one follows the line of sight of the bust you will end up looking at the crotch of the cowboy in the centre.

Viewers may speculate upon the message that this ad is intended to convey.    There are a number of possible interpretations. Which one an individual will settle upon after unconsciously 'noticing' the convergence of elements within the ad will depend upon their personal preferences, experiences and knowledge.

Aficionados of cigarette ads containing semi-subliminal elements might like to note that another interesting 'face' intended to 'direct' attention can be found in the Camel ads. There one can see a small muppet like face, partially hidden behind a smoke ring.  This 'face' directs attention towards a phallic shape 'slung' around the neck of a young man. This component of the Camel ad is only one of a number of sexually related images in the ad.  

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The Voyeurs?

  Click for a larger, floating, image. Botticelli's 'Primavera, The Allegory of Spring' with 'faces' in the trees.Artwork incorporating semi-subliminal faces is not new, nor is it the prerogative of the world of advertising. One example was discussed on the previous page. Here is an illustration of a 15th Century painting, Primavera, The Allegory of Spring, by Sandro Botticelli.  The illustration was extracted from an advert and is not a representation of the original work.   It may therefore may differ in some respects from the original. 

In her book Learning to Look at Paintings, Mary Acton notes that many thousands, if not millions, of words have been written about this painting.  Art historians and othersCover of Mary Acton's book on learning to look at painting focus on the grace, flow and sheer beauty of the elongated figures in the painting.   They also note the iconography associated with the painting, that is the contemporary philosophy and beliefs behind the painting.  However, little, if any, attention has been given to some semi-subliminal aspects of the painting.  

Situated in the tree line at the top of the painting are a number of masculine profiles.  Three of these have been circled on the extract from the Rollover of extract from Primavera showing some of the 'faces'.painting that is reproduced below.

Are these 'faces' depicting a number of voyeurs taking a keen interest in the ladies in the forest?  Or do they have some other message?  The pair of figures situated on either side of Venus are facing outwards.  Are they guardians?   Was Botticelli commenting in some way on his patrons or local worthies?  

Various other adverts have used Botticelli's work of art to exemplify quality. See, for example, the Peugeot ad on Mexico.htm. This ad was based on Botticelli's painting The Birth of Venus and it would seem to contain another example of Boticelli's semi-subliminal technique. Other ad artists have also drawn upon the technique of embedding a face or a representation of a face in the background.   The ad on the left, for example, US sunbed aduses the dots following the word Dreamer to bring about the same effect. In this instance the face (in a Klu Klux Klan type of hood)  is clearly facing towards the audience.   This particular ad, and others containing additional examples of semi-subliminal art work, can be found on a US site devoted to subliminal advertising managed by

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     Smile as Gallagher's wave you goodbye?

This is another ad with a number of distracting and disturbing components. The Benson and Hedges ad is, ostensibly, a collection of Mexican sombreros, fronds and cacti. Together they form a 'Mexican Wave'.  The rebus thus complements the answer to the crossword Click for a larger, floating, version of the Mexican Wave ad. puzzle clue, 'Goodbye Gringo (8,4).

The Mexican Wave ad actually 'hides' as much as it reveals. Most prominent in the thumbnail version of the ad one might note a rather cheerless 'face' underneath the crest of the wave - the sombrero to the right in mid air is the ear, the sombrero to its left and somewhat higher is the eye.  The 'face' has a small rounded chin and a very large, blunt, whale-like 'nose' and the individual depicted is apparently toothless or very tight lipped. By changing ones focal point the another face can be viewed looking upwards. The eye remains the eye but below that is the ear and a band of hair. This individual is almost bald. The mouth is rather grim.

This face may attract attention but it also serves to distract attention from other elements of the ad.  A closer look reveals that the wave is composed from a variety of images, only some of which are sombreros, cacti, etc.  One set of 'features' can be found above the 'mouth' of the larger figure.   There is an additional 'face' at this point.  This is illustrated below.  It can be found at the tip of the smaller wave. None of these figures is cheerful.   Other, equally, miserable faces will also be discerned by interested viewers.

The Mexican Wave is normally a heartening, socially participative,   activity, indulged in by sports audiences around the world.   This Benson and Hedges ad has given it a new twist.   The ad is intended to engender a negative mood in smokers and encourage mood related smoking.   The only wave that might then result will be a wave as the final curtain covers the funeral casket.

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About Face!

In conclusion one can note that faces can be used to convey a variety of messages.   They can trigger anxiety, help direct attention or simply attract interest.   When faces are semi-subliminal rather than overtly presented  it seems reasonable to assume that there is an ulterior motive lying behind their use. 

The examples given above would seem to indicate that, with few exceptions, embedded imagery is used solely in attempts to manipulate the thoughts and emotions of viewers.   It would seem that as the motives associated with specific campaigns become more unsavoury and less socially acceptable then the greater the likelihood that such images will be presented close to the boundary of perceptual ability.

Angry cartoon figure.Examine the ads on this page and elsewhere on this site carefully. Then decide whether the ad agencies and companies responsible for them were operating in an unethical manner.   If you feel like the figure on the left then do your best to ensure that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) acts to prevent recurrences of any of the abuses of persuasive techniques that irritated, embarrassed or annoyed you. 

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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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