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The Gatwick Trilogy

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Rothmans Rothman's  poster thumbnail Lucky Strike Lucky Strike poster thumbnailMarlboro Marlboro poster thumbnail Marlboro poster thumbnail


Not quite British

(or, if you prefer, Welsh Rarebit)

On one of the posters on display at Gatwick was the impressive image of agoriginal photo of poster Rothman's logo embellishing the underbelly of a wide bodied jet.    Pretty impressive stuff - but not as impressive as the embedded artwork in the bottom left hand corner.  Regrettably it is obscured in the photograph on the right as the author's finger appeared in front of the lens. 

Fortunately, the same ad also appeared in flight magazines around the world. One of these ads is depicted in the illustration shown on the left. The inset Ad from airline magazineimage on the right is the figure of interest (actual size as in the magazine ad). Geographers will note the distortion produced to the north east of England and the large 'chunk' bitten out of north Wales.

This apparent reflection of the southern half of Britain on the body of the aircraft can also be perceived as Col. Saunders lookalike, with a faint but nevertheless notable, cigarette/phallic shape entering his mouth. Or it could be smoke being blown out. Take your pick.

The 'chunk' missing from North Wales produces 'Colonel Saunders' eye. Map of southern U.K. showing Wales as it is.Whether what the Colonel is ingesting is intended to be perceived as an extremely large cigarette, a straw, a cigar or whatever, I will leave to the imagination of the viewer. Their judgement might, however, be biased by the other, sexually oriented, cigarette ads discussed on various other pages of the Subliminal World site.

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Holidaymakers and other travellers passing through Gatwick airport during the months of Display carousel at Gatwich airportJuly and August, 1999 were presented with some interesting examples of semi-subliminal manipulation - but, of course, never realized it.  How many of those who passed in front of this poster display featuring three ads, including two for Marlboro realized that one of the Marlboro ads exemplified oral activity? One could argue that it simply referred to oral activity such as smoking a cigarette. However, given the connotations assiduously cultivated by series of Marlboro ads one could equally argue that the oral activity was sexual in nature.

And how many who looked at the ad realized that it offered two versions of the same manipulative message(s)?

As is noted below, at one level, the message is fairly obvious, especially once the relevant features have been pointed out (see the image below and to the right).   When the message is presented at the semi-subliminal level it is much more difficult to perceive the embedded artwork.   

Two views of the ad are presented on the right to indicate how different viewing angles can help viewers get 'cued in' to the Marlboro poster  photgraphed at an anglemanipulative meaning of the ad, even if one does not initially consciously appreciate this. Additionally, note that the more obvious artwork can also function as a cue, priming viewers to interpret somewhat more ambiguous semi-subliminal material on the basis of its possible sexual connotations, rather than as simply a pattern on a rock face.

One doesn't need too much imagination to perceive a face in the rock.  The slightly opened mouth is facing to the left just below the top end of the 'phallic' rock.  The rock is noticeably bent and leaning towards the face.  This aspect of the ad would be evident to any person who scrutinized the poster.  It would require considerably more scrutiny of the original advert to perceive a second complementary representation of oral activity embedded at a semi-subliminal level in the rock face. Check the rollover if you have difficulty identify the focal point of this image.

The photograph from which this illustration was obtained does not provide enough detail to allow the semi-subliminal element to be reproduced.  However, if anyone who passed through Gatwick took a high resolution photograph of this ad without any reflections from the display cover or has a copy of the original in their possession the author would be pleased to incorporate this in a future edition of this Web page [ Contact information can be found at the foot of the page].  

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Lost in Lust 

Lucky Strike posterCigarette ads often attempt to associate cigarettes with sex (and succeed in doing so).  Some make the association in a rather discrete or even diplomatic manner.  Others, such as this ad for Lucky Strike, get down to the basics.   No doubt the justification for this ad would rely on some such argument that the lust in question is lust for quality cigarettes (if quality is an appropriate word to apply to a product such as cigarettes).

Other ads for Lucky Strike indicate that the lust in question is much more basic, it is sexual lust.  In addition, and here one again enters the realm of semi-subliminal cues, the poster also supports this interpretation.  It is possible to perceive that the background to this ad has been constructed in such a fashion that one can perceive the S, E and X in the darker aspects of the background. 

Another Lucky Strike poster that I hurriedly took a photograph of in passing came from another airport Another Lucky Strike posterterminal.  It also very subtly manages to add sex onto the list of features that a viewer might unconsciously associate with Lucky Strike cigarettes.    If one sees a full size version of this poster, look carefully at the crotch region of the driver.  You will note that there is a phallic shape superimposed on the figure.  Such embellishment is completely unnecessary and the inclusion of such semi-subliminal elements can only be perceived as part of a strategy to manipulate the attitudes and emotions of naive smokers.

In addition, as with the previous photograph, it is possible to perceive embedded lettering in the background.  Look in this illustration at the grey area to the left of the photograph, in the 7 o'clock position relative to the O of ON.  

One has to acknowledge that perception of semi-subliminal lettering may be due to projection, biased by previous exposure to Lucky Strike adverts (click here for other Lucky Strike ads).  But one should note that it seems difficult for leopards to change their spots.  Companies other than tobacco companies deserve the benefit of the doubt where ambiguous and questionable semi-subliminal messages are concerned.   But advertising agencies working for tobacco companies have far too often made use of semi-subliminal means in attempts to manipulate the thoughts and emotions of viewers that they do not deserve any such consideration. In this reversal of natural justice, they are deemed guilty until proved innocent where the use of semi-subliminal ad characteristics are concerned.

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Sex on the Range

   Marlboro posterLittle needs to be said about this poster.  It is a typical Marlboro poster but note that the original was a photograph of the ad taken through a protective glass screen. This means that there are also reflected images in the picture.

The contents are more subtle than some of the Marlboro ads depicted elsewhere on this site (click here for one such page) and the Marlboro ad discussed above.

In this ad it is possible to perceive, on the mountainside the letters S E and X. The extract with S and X present the most obvious letters and these can be found to the top left above the Mar of Marlboro. Additionally, somewhat less clearly, on the lower river bank,  in the lower right hand corner above the EA of HEALTH, there is artwork that is open to interpretation. This second extract contains a 'face' that may also be surrounded by 'lettering'.

Given the long history of manipulative, semi-subliminal, embedded artwork in Marlboro ads, it would be remiss to point out that this is yet another poster that contains a sexual message.  Proof that such embedding exists is impossible to provide, given the subjective and interpretive nature of the perceptual process and the ambiguous nature of the artwork.  However, since Marlboro ads contain a continuum of sexually oriented material, from the relatively obvious at the top end of the perceptual spectrum to the debatable, ambiguous but not quite semi-subliminal embedded elements, it would seem to be overly generous to presume that their artwork stops short at a level where the elements can be clearly perceived.  Even when there are fairly obviously interpretable elements in Marlboro ads, such as in the phallic rock ad commented on above, the more obvious elements are often simply cues intended to bias perceptions should viewers also process the more subtle material embedded in the artwork.  The overt and covert messages are, in other words, intended to function in a complementary manner, albeit unconsciously - and thus manipulatively.

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No smoking sign.Future Developments

Would you be interested in supporting the development of a web site focussing specifically on cigarette advertising, smoking behaviour, nicotine addiction and related information? In particular would you like to help encourage youngsters to develop a healthy scepticism about advertising practices associated with cigarette advertising and promotion? If you can offer either financial assistance to develop such a site or have material available that could be of use on such a site, the author would be pleased if you would contact him.






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Commentary and information about any of the ads or requests on this Web site can be sent by e-mail to the Webmaster

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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