Correspondence with the I P A

Origins of correspondence with the Insitute of Practitioners in Advertising, circa 2000

The author's copy of the original letter was misplaced sometime between initiating correspondence with the IPA and the production of this web page. Whilst it would be possible to reconstruct the letter, this is deemed unecessary as viewers can easily determine the nature of the content by reading the following commentary and taking into account related correspondence with the ASA and the American Association of Advertising Agencies. Essentially, the 'missing' letter was soliciting the views of the IPA on the type of advertising that is now illustrated on the Subliminal World web site as per the suggestion in a letter from the ASA ( the IPA is the parent organisation of the ASA). The IPA's letter is reproduced in the next section of this page, followed by second copy of the letter, this time incorporating the author's commentary on its contents. [If the IPA still has a copy of my letter in their files and are willing to send me a copy I will be only to happy to include it here.]

Note that the views of the IPA, together with those of those of the ASA, present UK consumers with a Catch 22 situation. This become particularly clear when Manisha Yagnick of the ASA ASA states "We have considered the advertisements and how they will be seen by most people and decided that they are not in breach of the Codes." Note the emphasis is on the Codes and on the imagery I complained about being seen, rather than perceived or having been unconsciously aware of. Psychologists would most likely emphasise the process known as preconscious processing, the 'unconscious' attempt to make sense of visual and other sensory information before the essential, core elements enter conscious awareness.

The layperson thus has the impossible option of complaining about ads containing elements that they will not consciously perceive - but might still attempt to make sense of, or else let advertisers make use of semi-subliminal ads as they see fit. Whether those who use this technique know that they work or simply hope that they will, the use of such techniques is clearly a strong indication of unethical behaviour that ought to be the concern of any association or agency claiming to 'police' advertising in the public interest.

The academic consensus is that such ads do not and will not work. But how does that stack up against the years of practical investigation and marketing research by companies such as Philip Morris? There is a disparity here that needs investigation, especially where the advertising of potentially harmful products such as cigarettes and spirits are concerned. Given the years of deceit and misleading statements made by tobacco companies regarding the health risks of smoking, etc, viewers will probably not be surprised to note that adverts for tobacco company products are the most common types of ads containing secondary (semi-subliminal) imagery.

Recent experimental research by the author (see subexpt.htm ) indicates that, despite the general consensus in academia, a consensus that has its origins in studies of non-advertising material, adverts containing semi-subliminal or secondary images do impact differently on viewers i.e. are likely to influence the judgement of viewers without the viewers being consciously aware of this fact. Recent research in France by Ahmed Channouf also supports such an impact.

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Text of the reply from the IPA dated 6th March 2000

To permit readers to gain a true appreciation of the contents of the letter without distortion, the letter is first presented without comments. Following this the letter is again presented with the author's presented in red. These comments are considerably more extensive than the letter itself. The IPA, however, may wish to expand upon this letter. If so, their additional comments will also be included at a later date.


Dear J.Hagart

I'm following up on earlier correspondence with observations on your letter.

The advertising business does not use subliminal advertising, it is illegal.

The IPA supports the codes and the independent means by which they are administered; one of the conditions of IPA membership is that agencies abide by the codes.

The UK advertising industry contests the existence of subliminal advertising in anything other than an academic or hypothetical sense.

We do accept that consumers think it exists and disapprove of it. It doesn't but, if it did, they would be right.

Advertising is a persuasive, not a coercive, activity. Explicit commercial advocacy is difficult enough; within the codes consumers are not, in our experience, capable of being manipulated in the way suggested and it is not in the industry's interest to attempt to do so. Consumer confidence in the business (which is high) is an essential component of its credibility and effectiveness.

Researchers, psychologists, psychiatrists and others interested in how the brain works, may be interested in methods of communication using such techniques and others, e.g. hypnosis, etc. but these have no part in the business in which was are involved. [typing error in original]

Also we do not accept the existence of "semi-subliminal" communication.

Finally, the communication theory on which advertising is developed is not based on the depositing of messages into a passive - but receptive - minds, by whatever method. Rather it is based on providing an explicit stimulus which generates a response in an active and discriminating manner.


Thank you for writing to us.

Yours sincerely,


Nick Phillips

Director General



Text of the preceding letter from the IPA with the author's comments added in red.


Dear J.Hagart

I'm following up on earlier correspondence with observations on your letter.

The advertising business does not use subliminal advertising, it is illegal. [ My letter was actually about semi-subliminal advertising in printed media - not subliminal advertising in general. And, in the UK, such advertising is not illegal, except where TV is concerned. ]

The IPA supports the codes and the independent means by which they are administered; one of the conditions of IPA membership is that agencies abide by the codes. [ The codes as noted on the page devoted to correspondence with the ASA say nothing about subliminal or semi-subliminal advertising. In fact, as the letter from Manisha Yagnick of the ASA indicates only too clearly, the ASA doesn't apply consider the Codes relevant to the type of advertising illustrated on the Subliminalworld web site. ]

The UK advertising industry contests the existence of subliminal advertising in anything other than an academic or hypothetical sense.[ Note again the attendance to subliminal advertising, without any definition of what this means, and not semi-subliminal advertising ( or any of the other relevant terms used on this site to refer to ads containing elements that are not subliminal but are on the borderline of perceptual ability. ]

We do accept that consumers think it exists and disapprove of it. It doesn't but, if it did, they would be right.

Advertising is a persuasive, not a coercive, activity. [ My letter is unlikely to have made use of the term coercive as this implies the use of force or pressure. Was this a Freudian slip on the part of someone with a guilty conscience? My letter would have made very clear that I was interested in the type of ads that are the primary content of the subliminalworld site. These, I would suggest, are manipulative rather than coercive.] Explicit commercial advocacy is difficult enough; within the codes consumers are not, in our experience, capable of being manipulated in the way suggested and it is not in the industry's interest to attempt to do so. [ So, why do some agencies continue to do so? However, one should note that evidence from research into subliminal perception, implicit learning, conditioning and other areas of psychology ALL demonstrate that people can be influenced (manipulated) by images and messages that they are not consciously aware of. What is in dispute is whether behaviour is ultimately influenced. An impact on behaviour cannot be easily demonstrated with small numbers of subjects in short term laboratory experiments. However, when promotional activities are directed towards thousands, if not millions of ad viewers, over extended periods of time, the influence of 'subliminal' advertising may be clearer. The analysis of marketing data following the use of 'subliminal' ads presumably has demonstrated to the companies concerned that they 'work'. If they don't, why are they used? Consumer confidence in the business (which is high) is an essential component of its credibility and effectiveness. [If consumers were more aware of how some companies and their advertising agencies attempt to manipulate them such confidence, justifiably, would diminish. This would seem sufficient motivation for the IPA/ASA to once again put 'their house in order' regarding the use of subliminal advertising (and here, I use the term loosely to encompass marginally perceptible/secondary imagery/secondary imagery).

Researchers, psychologists, psychiatrists and others interested in how the brain works, may be interested in methods of communication using such techniques and others, e.g. hypnosis, etc. but these have no part in the business in which was are involved. [Typing error in original]

Also we do not accept the existence of "semi-subliminal" communication. [ If this is intended to the authors' use of this term to refer simply to the labelling of the covert aspects of ads, what would the IPA think is an appropriate term for images and messages that the audience cannot perceive easily? If this sentence is intended to imply that such ads do not exist, then what is illustrated throughout much of this web site? ]

Finally, the communication theory on which advertising is developed is not based on the depositing of messages into a passive - but receptive - minds, by whatever method. Rather it is based on providing an explicit stimulus which generates a response in an active and discriminating manner. [This is bull. Advertising, like all human activities are based on a number of different theories, some intuitive, some formal. There are recent cognitive communication theories which assume that human beings do respond actively and in a discriminating manner - and many ads may be based on this theory. There are also many other theories, with supporting evidence, demonstrating that, in many circumstances, people respond automatically, even irrationally, with little or no conscious awareness to visual information.

The aforementioned theories of conditioning, implicit learning, subliminal perception and others have all generated studies to show that people can learn without conscious awareness. What is really at issue is not the theory that is the 'flavour of the month' but the extent to which such (unattended) learning experiences can ultimately influence behaviour. For a considerably longer list of relevant theories see the page devoted to theories of Persuasive Communication and Consumer Decision Making on the site of the Department of Advertising, The University of Texas at Austin ( ). It listed more than two dozen different theories, including one concerning subliminal perception.

As indicated above, in the author's comments, the long term use of covert, semi-subliminal components, by some companies would indicate that the influence of such ads is sufficient to make their use commercially effective. If it is not, then many ad agencies are pulling the wool over the eyes of their clients. Some recent evidence produced by the author and a colleague ( see subexpt.htm ) indicate that the embedded content of such ads does influence viewers.

Either way, the IPA's attempt to dismiss criticism of current advertising practice on the basis of a carefully selected theory is clearly disingenuous. If this were all that mattered, if one accepts that adverts are based on active responses (and this is always possible), then one still needs to ask why certain companies make use of semi-subliminal, marginally perceptible, borderline perceptible, manipulative, covert techniques (choose whichever term you prefer)? On the basis of a theory emphasising active, conscious, involvement, these would be a complete waste of time. Are the major tobacco companies, soft drinks companies, and others such as Pirelli and Peugeot, whose ads and labels are illustrated on this site, all producing ads containing elements hardly anyone is ever likely to notice just for the 'hell of it'?

See the list of adverts for an indication of the range of products involved. Bear in mind a small number of those listed are there simply for comparative purposes and to illustrate that certain techniques are not necessarily the province of manipulative advertising agencies and their clients. The majority of ads and labels on the list, however, contain elements that, in sum, would be considered unethical. If they have been found by market research or other means to be capable of influencing even a small number of individuals, they would be considered unacceptable by any individual who believed in freedom of choice and wished to retain the right to exercise conscious choice whenever possible. These points apply multi-fold where potentially harmful products such as cigarettes and spirits advertising is concerned.

Consumers and Consumer Organisations. It's your call! Should the IPA and the ASA (and American equivalent organisations) address this issue? ]


Thank you for writing to us.

Yours sincerely,


Nick Phillips

Director General




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Text of a letter to the author from Ms Marina Palomba's, Legal Affairs Director of the IPA

Institute of Practitioners in Advertising


Mr Jim Hagart

author's adddress


13th September, 2002

By Recorded Delivery

Dear Mr Hagart

re: Website -

It has come to our attention that the TPA lettering is appearing in the subliminal site URL and the full words "The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising" appear as a heading to your web page. There can be no doubt this is extremely misleading. To any visitor, the site appears to be owned by the IPA, which clearly it is not. Anyone reading the site would also assume that the subject boxes displayed beneath the words "The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising" relate to the IPA, which again, they do not.

On the right of the front page, there is also a box headed "The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising" which implies a link to the IPA, again this is totally misleading.

We have no objection to an IPA letter dated the 6th March 2000 being published by you, albeit a rather out of date letter. Nick Phillips is no longer the DG of the IPA. We do object to much of the content of your response however, which is inaccurate and in parts defamatory. It is particularly relevant that you have failed to print the text of your own letter. The IPA has always opposed subliminal advertising and was instrumental in condemning the practice. We question you interpretation of what subliminal advertising means however and object to the implication in your letter that suggests that the IPA in any way condones subliminal messages.

We ask that your comments be removed from the text of our letter forthwith. More importantly, however, please confirm in writing by return that the IPA's title is removed from your site together with any



date: 13th September 2002

page: 2


hyperlinks and any reference in the URL. By this, we refer particularly to the URL

We trust that we will not need to take legal proceedings to force you to make these appropriate amendments but if the references to the IPA as highlighted and your web pages are not removed in their present format within the next 7 days, failing which we will take all appropriate legal steps. We will also seek any costs of taking proceedings from you and reserve the right to show this
letter to the court on the issue of costs.

Yours faithfully

Marina Palomba

Legal Affairs Director

CC Advertising Standards Authority

44 Belgrave Square
020 7235 7020

020 7245 9904
direct telephone:
020 7201 8242

020 7245 9004



Bruce Haines
Director General
Hamish Pringle
Geoffrey Russell
Honorary Secretary
John Banks
Honorary Treasurer
Peter Walker

The Institute of Practitioners
in Advertising is a company
limited by guarantee
Registered in England no. 221167


Author's reply to Ms Palomba's letter

22nd September, 2002

For the Attention of Ms. Marina Palomba,
Legal Affairs Director,
Institute of Practitioners in Advertising,
44 Belgrave Square,

Dear Ms Palomba,

This is in response to your letter of 13th September, 2002. It is a lengthy response and I therefore present a summary of the key points at the end.

Firstly, I would like to thank you, inadvertently, for drawing my attention to the fact that one of my web pages concerning 'subliminal' advertising was incomplete (the reason for the inverted commas will be presented below). You are the first person to bring this flaw on my web site to my attention. I presumably got distracted before I completed the page and it was subsequently uploaded to my web site along with other material. I therefore take your point, given its content, that a cursory viewing i.e. simply reading the title rather than any of the content, could have led a viewer to consider the page to be owned by the IPA. When I restore the web page I will have modified the relevant title, etc so that there should be no likelihood that any viewer will consider the page to be owned by the IPA.

Whilst on the subject of URL's I should point out to you that you do not seem to have a clear understanding of the difference between a site URL and a page URL. You refer in your heading to the Website - This is itself misleading. It is not a site URL, rather it is an incomplete page URL. If you removed the /IPA then it would be a site URL, if you added .htm or .html after the /IPA then it would be an accurate page URL. Therefore, re your request to withdraw any reference to the IPA in the page URL, I see no need to do so. It is the domain name that determines the site and thus its ownership, not any individual page. The full URL is clearly an indicator of a page on the domain. One example makes this clear. If there were a page URL, on the basis of your complaint the IPA domain would presumably be perceived as being owned by a family of gophers. I could, of course, easily and rather facetiously, have renamed the page IPAcrap.htm or Correspondence_with_the_IPA.htm or even Not_India_Pale_Ale.htm. Note that the example indicates that IPA has more than one meaning. In summary, as brevity tends to equate to memorability, a page URL should, ideally, providing it is not misleading, make use of the English language to offer viewers a simple means of remembering a page URL. The page URL does just that.

Now for a few distinctions related to what you call subliminal advertising, to clarify my use of inverted commas around the word subliminal, in line two, paragraph two, above. Whilst the phrase subliminal advertising is commonly used by both professionals and lay persons it can have a number of meanings. As initially used by Wilson Key it covered a continuum of ads. At one end of the continuum this focused on the type epitomised by many of the ads illustrated on the web site. These are ads containing secondary, embedded, content that can be consciously perceived, though most often with difficulty - usually after attention is drawn to the relevant artwork. At the other end of the continuum, Key referred to ads or messages presented to viewers at levels below the level of perceptual ability.

The lay person, whose understanding of the subject is limited to a reading of Wilson Key's books, would likewise use the term subliminal advertising in a very broad sense. Many commentators and much everyday usage stretch the meaning further to include anything that is not initially noticed or what is implied rather than stated. Spokespersons for the advertising profession often use the phrase subliminal advertising in a similar, off-handed manner. Generally, they write as if the term covers the full range of advertising that is not perceptible by the average viewer (both above and below the limits of perception). Yet the evidence cited tend to relate only to those aspects of advertising that can never be perceived i.e. truly subliminal content as per the definition presented in the next paragraph.

Psychologists generally make use of a more precise, though not completely trouble free, definition than Wilson Key and the layperson. This applies the term subliminal in its true sense i.e. below the limits of perceptual ability. I attempt to use this definition in a consistent manner and therefore, when possible, would not refer to the ads discussed on the subliminalworld site as subliminal ads.

If truly subliminal ads exist, by definition, they could not be perceived and one could never raise complaints about them. Yet truly subliminal ads - if they exist, together with subliminal stimuli used in rigorously controlled experiments and ads containing secondary imagery presented at levels close to the limits of visual perception, share many of the same features. All these forms of communication can influence viewer's judgements without the viewer being aware of that fact. Given that this is the case, I am often left to wonder why no professional organisation has ever expressed any interest in the type of ads that I wish to discuss with them.

One can therefore distinguish between different types of unethical adverts - and I presume you would agree that all subliminal ads are unethical, regardless of how one defines the term. The type of ads I discuss generally contain secondary images, providing that one appreciates that a word embedded in an ad is simply a specific form of image.

It would be too tedious to repeat such distinctions on every page of my web site. Additionally, since web sites are not like books, it is possible to arrive in the 'middle' of a web without any awareness of how this section relates to the rest of it. Hence most pages have an animated image directing people to the introductory pages where various terms are discussed.

Despite the lack of imprecision associated with the phrase subliminal advertising, as it is commonly used, if the IPA wish to explicitly acknowledge that the term subliminal advertising subsumes ads containing secondary images then I will happily make use of the term subliminal advertising in any correspondence. But you need to make clear what you are referring to i.e. the complete continuum of ads, from those that contain material that can be perceived with difficulty to those beyond the limits of perceptual ability, or whatever. If you do not, and simply use the term subliminal advertising in an imprecise manner to present blanket statements about the historical activities of the IPA, then it is irrelevant to the subject matter that I raised with Nick Phillips.

Having offered these definitions, my viewpoint should not really be problematical, neither should my comments associated with Nick Phillips' letter. You claim these comments are inaccurate. But if so, then it would have been helpful if you could have stated which aspects were inaccurate.

A related issue is raised in paragraph three of your letter. You refer to Nick Phillips' letter as rather dated. Does this imply that the IPA has changed or up-to-date views on the subject of secondary imagery in advertising? Or, if you wish to include such ads under the rubric of subliminal advertising, do you have updated views on subliminal advertising? You can rest assured that I will correct any mistakes and modify my comments in the light of any updated views you present on behalf of the IPA.

Having dealt with some tangential issues I will now deal with the issues related to your charge of defamation.

Firstly, my missing letter. You seem to imply it is important. I do not think so, for a variety of reasons. Admittedly, it is rather unfortunate that I did not include a copy when I first produced the page but, as noted above, its inclusion on the web site in the form you viewed it was an oversight. The modified IPA.htm page, when it appears, will make it clear that the content of my letter to the IPA did not differ substantially from those addressed to the ASA and the AAAA. Additionally, as my communications with the IPA arose from a referral by the ASA, any interested reader should have little difficulty in determining the gist, if not the actual wording, of my letter to the IPA.

I note, in passing, that you did not refer to your copy of my original letter in an attempt to determine whether or not my comments were pertinent. I no longer have copies of my correspondence from this period due to a computer crash but should you still possess a copy of my letter in your archives, perhaps, in the interests of accuracy, you would be willing to supply me with a photocopy.

You also question my interpretation of what subliminal advertising means. The implication of your question is that there is only one definitive definition. Clearly this is not the case as I indicate above. You also state that that my interpretation is rather unfortunate. I wonder for whom as something cannot be unfortunate in the abstract. Could you therefore elaborate what you mean by this statement? Do you mean unfortunate for the IPA, for members of the public, or whomsoever?

You further state that the IPA does not condone subliminal messages. If I take this to mean that the IPA does not condone the type of adverts I discuss, and which form the basis of Wilson Keys arguments and laypersons understanding, then I find it raises some problematical issues.

A spokesperson for the ASA found that an ad containing embedded imagery, clearly evident once attention is drawn to the relevant artwork, did not justify any action on their part. Given the nature of the justification the ASA offered for their decision it seemed pointless that I repeat the exercise with additional ads. The justification offered by the ASA was, in my view, laughable. They did not see that it breached the advertising codes. Although true, given that there is no mention of subliminal advertising in the codes, this simply indicates a deficiency in the codes. More crucially, they stated that most people would not see the ad in the manner I suggested. This indicates a horrendous disregard or indifference for the unethical nature of the content and the distaste with which the layperson regards such underhand attempts to influence them. Additionally it seems to indicate a complete lack of knowledge of the power of information to influence people without their being consciously aware of what is influencing them.

You may wish to argue that this was an isolated ad and that other 'subliminal' ads might be perceived differently by the ASA. I doubt that, as it is notable that neither the ASA nor the IPA displayed the slightest interest in investigating any of the issues I raised with them.

If, on the other hand, your statement re not condoning subliminal advertising doesn't cover the type of ad containing secondary imagery i.e. is restricted to the precise psychological definition that refers only to adverts below the limits of perception, your statement is irrelevant. Some other viewpoint needs to be expressed. I would therefore, once again, appreciate it if you would state precisely how the IPA stands with regard to the type of ads I comment upon.

You furthermore state the IPA has always been opposed to subliminal advertising and was instrumental in condemning the practice. On this issue, I have a limited viewpoint. I would only comment that contentious advertising could only have been produced by members of the advertising profession and thus your statement seems merely to be an example of a profession putting its own house in order to avoid the government implementing legislation. I therefore don't doubt that the IPA expressed opposition to subliminal advertising in the past but what is the state of affairs at present? I would like to be more specific and ask, since the IPA is the parent body for the ASA, why is secondary imagery in advertising ignored by the ASA? And why is there no specific mention of subliminal advertising, however it is defined, in the advertising codes? Bear in mind at this point that truly subliminal content and embedded secondary imagery share the same characteristics and thus, in my opinion, deserve the same degree of attention.

It was possible a few years ago for spokesperson for the advertising profession to rely upon blanket denials of the existence of subliminal advertising without fear of reproach. Until the presentation of the ads on the web site there was little that could be presented in the way of evidence to counter such statements. The only notable set of examples in the public domain were presented on the site, a site which 'stretches' the definition of subliminal advertising to incorporate a wide range of ads: from ads containing secondary imagery to those reliant on imagery involving social cues. Thanks to the addition of the web site this set of examples in the public domain has been extended to include many recent examples of 'subliminal' ads containing secondary images.

Secondary images in ads may or may not influence consumers. I think they do, as I make clear on the introductory pages to my web site. And evidence is accumulating to indicate that they actually do influence viewers. But whether or not that influence exists, their use is a clear indication of unethical behaviour, a subject that presumably is of relevance to the IPA. I would therefore like to see the IPA/ASA address the implications of their use by advertising agencies and their clients.

The advertising profession cannot 'have its cake and eat it'. You either have a broad definition (incorporating material on the borderline of perceptual ability ) or a narrow definition (in which it is impossible to perceive subliminal content). In the case of a broad definition, then your argument falls. Neither the IPA nor the ASA seems to have done anything in recent years about ads containing secondary images. More specifically, as I note above, the ASA do not see such ads as in breach of the advertising codes. If you support a narrow definition, then it is irrelevant to the issue of secondary imagery in advertising. Organisations such as yours are then clearly being disingenuous when you report to the public that you disapprove of subliminal advertising, given that the laypersons understanding falls into line with the broad definition.

If I am in error on this matter I would request that you supply me with information about any action the IPA or ASA has taken in the past ten years to prevent the use of such ads or chastise any agency who made use of secondary imagery in ads.

Regarding my comments on the letter received from Nick Phillip in his role as Director General of the IPA - these will stand. I make clear that these are my views. It is up to viewers to decide whether they are valid or not. If you find any inaccuracies in them I shall be only to happy correct them. You may take exception to the fact that these comments are integrated with the body of your letter. I agree that this is not ideal but the different colour of print and the use of brackets clearly demarcate comments from Nick Phillips' views. It is possible that the understanding of intellectually challenged viewers might be influenced by this structure but this would not be true of anyone with an interest in subliminal advertising nor advertising in general. When the page was first produced there was no adequate technology to present my comments in a clearer manner. It is now possible to do so using pop-up messages and over the next few months, as time permit, I shall be making a range of changes to ensure the views of the IPA are clearly distinguished from my own.

Finally, I would suggest that if you subsequently wish to initiate any proceedings under the Defamation Act 1996, please ensure any future letters are more accurate and more precise. This might then make it easier for me to make amends. In the present instance I acknowledge that I am the author of the statements you take exception to and I have immediately taken steps to change the page. However, none of my statements can be considered defamatory when taken within the wider context of the web site as a whole. They accurately reflect the (possibly rather muddled) state of knowledge within the advertising profession on the question of 'subliminal' advertising. But, as I suggest, perhaps you can elaborate on what has so far been presented to me and allow me the possibility of correcting any erroneous statements and also put the public record straight. The web site might thus simply become a record of historical interest.

Should you wish to initiate any such action I shall be happy to present this letter to any court as evidence of my intention to rectify any erroneous content on my web site. I would also reserve the right to present all of the material on the web site to a court as an indication of my overall intention regarding its content. The basis for such a presentation being that, on the basis of a reading of a single page, taken out of context, any claim for defamation is likely to be misleading, if not malicious in intent. And of course, as additional defence, I can always call upon testimonials related to my academic record and my stance on various unethical issues in the past.

Incidentally, your threat to take action within the next 7 days leaves me wondering whether you mean 7 days from the date of your letter, 7 days from when I received it, or 7 days from when I first read it. Since you did not ensure that your letter had to be signed for by me personally (it was signed for by another resident at the same address) you clearly make no allowance for the fact that I could have been away from home or even out of the country. Given this shortcoming, the lack of precision in your letter, and other shortcomings (others of lesser importance have not been addressed in this reply) then I would be only too pleased to see you present your letter to a court.

Overall, I do not find your letter a creditable attempt to rectify what you claim is possible defamation. It seems to be more a case of a large organisation attempting to frighten an individual into 'toeing the party line'. This is not going to be the case as my argument regarding the unethical and manipulative nature of secondary imagery in advertising is a valid one. My case is not perfect, and some examples that I present on my web site may be due to pareidolia or misinterpretation. Such outcomes can, however, easily be discounted by simple experimental investigations. Overall, a considerable body of evidence can back my claims. Most of this evidence relates to studies of subliminal perception but a growing body relates to advertising. Should you thus wish to initiate legal proceedings I would anticipate any reasonable court would dispose of your claim on the grounds that there was no reason why it should be tried.

In summary I would appreciate it if you would:
A) be more precise and state exactly what errors you perceive in my comments.
B) state whether or not the IPA has changed or up-to-date views on the subject of secondary imagery in advertising since I received Nick Phillips' letter.
C) state what the IPA means when the term subliminal advertising is used i.e. communications below the level of perceptual ability (narrow definition) or to a continuum of ads including those with embedded imagery (broad definition), or whatever?
D) what action, if any, has the IPA taken in the past decade to deal with truly subliminal advertising or 'subliminal' advertising containing embedded imagery?
E) why is there no specific mention of subliminal advertising, however it is defined, in the advertising codes?

This should not be too difficult for you as I note that you sent a copy of your letter to the ASA. I would expect close collaboration to produce a more acceptable, precise, and up-to-date policy statement, underpinned by clear definitions. Perhaps then I might be able to resolve the inconsistencies between the statements of advertising organisations and also the statements and actions of some of their members and their clients. If not, then you can expect that the site will become more elaborate and contain more experimental and other pertinent information as time progresses.

What I hope is that the IPA and the ASA may be prevailed upon to make the advertising codes more specific and clearly ban secondary imagery. Alternatively, state specifically that you find no grounds for disapproving of it. In which case we will clearly disagree.

If your claims to oppose subliminal advertising still have merit then these requests seem more than reasonable. If the impact of secondary imagery in ads on judgements, thinking and behaviour is more profound than I originally anticipated (and this seems to be the case), then such a change cannot come too soon.

Please note that any correspondence on these issues will be placed in the public domain on my web site along with previous correspondence.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Signature on Closing Credits Banner

Jim Hagart, C.Psychol.


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