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South of the Border - Down Mexico Way Part I

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Bacardi Bacardi thumbnail Ajax Ajax thumbnailAjax thumbnail Peugeot Peugeot thumbnailPeugeot thumbnail

Gatorade Black Ice Limited Edition Gatorade thumbnail Quo Magazine etc. Quo magazine thumbnail



There is not all that much that is completely new on this page. With the exception of the Gatorade label and the Bacardi ad most of the examples simply demonstrate that the techniques used in English speaking countries, especially if influenced by American companies, apply equally well in Spanish speaking countries. What follows may therefore be considered a demonstration that manipulative and semi subliminal brand advertising is becoming universal - or that the ad world is being shaped in the US mould.

Marketing textbooks usually herald visually based ads as exemplars of the type of ad that can be effective across languages and across cultures (see Consumer Psychology textbooks). Unfortunately, when elements of the ads are presented at the semi-subliminal level then there is little that can be said in their favour. Their goal is not to inform, influence or educate, to a large extent their goal is simply to manipulate.

Go to Mexico sign

despite the manipulative ads

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Bacardi, Ajax, Peugeot & Co.

Bacardi ad with anxiety provoking elements in glassBacardi is the first of the Mexican crop. Embedded in the ice cube montage is the type of element that is pretty common amongst spirits marketed towards those with a tendency towards self destruction, a need to drink when feeling anxious, and those likely to respond to anxiety provoking imagery. See the various Jim Beam, Jack Daniels and other ads on the site.

In this Bacardi ad, take a look at the enlarged glass and focus on one part of the Enlarged Bacardi glass showing features in the ice cubesice cube image at a time. Don't 'take in' the glass as a whole, focus on only a part of the ice cube and you will see the kind of scene that Wilson Key often described as a menagerie of horror and distorted faces, the type one might visualize when suffering from DTs. There are also a few representations of 'man's best friend' but unfortunately they seem to be dead.

On a more cheerful and salacious note I would have loved to have been able to provide a clear example of the Gatorade Black Ice (10th Anniversary Limited Edition) label. Unfortunately the label has such little variation among the blacks and greys presented on a silvery reflective surface that I not been able to reproduce a clear image. Nevertheless, this label ought to be considered a classic and collectors interested in semi subliminal advertising ought to find it well worth looking for. What makes it particularly distinctive is that the semi subliminal elements comprise almost 50% of the main section of the label and yet these are still not easy to notice.

Note that on the right hand side of the label (behind and to the right of Black Ice) there is a silhouette of a Gatorade Black Ice special edition. Reclining woman and phallic shape in backgroundwoman. Check out the rollover if you cannot perceive this figure. She is sitting down and seems to be reclining 'against' the label of contents. A thin arm is also evident. The seating position bears a slight resemblance to the twinned figures on the Robe Di Kappa logo but the angle of recline is much steeper.

One can be pretty certain that this figure is intended to be perceived as a woman because of the 'bust'. As if to confirm this, in the area of the rollover circled in blue there is a small 'male' face looking at her. Only the outline of the face shows up on the scanned image because of the lack of distinction between the different shades of black and grey on the Male face 'looking' at female figurelabel and the reflective silvery surface of the label. This outline can be seen more clearly in the enlarged inset figure on the right. Check out an original label if you can find one.

Warning of content of strongly sexual nature.These elements are not the only features that make this label notable. Most 'sexy' ads will either depict the word sex or offer a phallic shape or two, even a penis or masturbation. This label goes further, and offers a representation of sexual penetration, if you will excuse the pun.

Look at the part of the label just to the left of the 10th ANNIVERSARY LIMITED EDITION caption you will possibly see a phallic shape 'entering' a V shape. Again, because of the poor resolution of the scanned image, the phallic and V elements merge into a single figure.

You will need to find an original copy of the label if you wish to verify that all of these features exist and confirm that this label is actually depicting sexual penetration. Check it out before the label goes out of circulation, it is after all, a limited edition.

Other Mexican ads are less salacious and offer examples equivalent to those presented on the 'What is and What isn't subliminal?' page. Some Nuevo Ajax ads with the caption 'The Law of the Trigger' could be construed as semi-subliminal ads but they are not. It is, however, possible that in some examples from the series, such as the one on the right, when turning over a full size page certain elements of the ads could be overlooked. One could Ajax ad with phallic cowboyoverlook the figure in the ad below, presumably a cowboy unable to straighten up after a day in the saddle, and simply note a wall covered in gunge. But note also that sexual connontations are likely to be triggered by the figure. Although not anatomically correct, his 'belt' could be construed as a giant penis.

The pirate with the cutlasses in the ad below is less likely to be overlooked, and will be perceived as part of a bathroom wall covered in grime. In this second ad, a complete figure is presented and there is little doubt that viewers are intended to perceive a pirate.

But, if one wished to be mischievous, it is possible to interpret certain aspects of this ad along similar lines to those noted above. First, the cutlass in his right hand could, again be intrepreted as a phallic shape. Note also that the lighting/shade on the figures of the cowboy/pirate is less than natural, with the artistic licence offering the possibility for a phallic misinterpretation in the genital Ajax ad with phallic pirateregion. One is thus left wondering how many 'triggers' these two ads really are referring to.

The page devoted to ads for Peugeot and other French ads demonstrated unequivocally that European ads were 'doctored' in order to present messages that would not be consciously perceived. Here are some Mexican examples demonstrating the same strategy is used in Spanish language magazines.

The ad for the 106 on the right and also Peugeot 106 ad the ad for the 306 on the left both make use of the associative conditioning technique, in which emotive text messages (the word sex) are placed close to the brand name.

Peugeot 306 ad with Botticelli based image.In the case of the 106 ad look just above the 106 MAX (see the extracts below) and again above the 000 Ptas for the relevant 'letters', seemingly 'carved' into the stone.

Botticelli's Birth of Venus for comparison with the Peugeot ad.

The 306 ad was based on Botticelli's painting The Birth of Venus, presumably to indicate that the car had a 'touch of class'. Superficially there is little difference in the imagery in the ad and that in Boticelli's work of art, apart from the addition of the steering wheel. But look more carefully at the extract (below) to the right alongside the e-mail address ( and there you will clearly see changes to Botticelli's painting that lead to the 'letter' S standing out against the background. The X(s) is(are) darker and merge into the background on the web page.

Check out an original copy to verify that the 'lettering' exists and compare the Peugeot version with Botticelli's original artwork for the Birth of Venus. There is, somewhat surprisingly, also an S on Botticelli's painting (just to the right of the line indicating the division between the two pages) but it is much less distinct than that on the Peugeot ad. And the same point can be made about any other 'lettering'. If the Peugeot ad is simply a clearer rendition of Botticelli's painting it raises the question 'Did Botticelli consistently use semi-subliminal techniques, including lettering?' Perhaps art historians would care to comment on the subject after noting that another of Botticelli's paintings also contains semi-subliminal elements that would not normally be noted (see Faces2.htm for a brief discussion of Primavera, The Allegory of Spring).

Enlargement of foot of 106 ad.

Enlargement of Peugeot Botticelli ad.

Enlargement of Botticelli's original.

And, just in case you think 'sex' and its derivatives are not words that are used in Spanish publicatations, take a look at the material shown below. Illustrated are two covers of the magazine Quo and some promotional material. These make it plain that sex (the word, as well as the activity) is appreciated the world over. Such being the case, it is not only pictorial imagery that is likely to be responded to without conscious attention. Semi-subliminal messages may be effective whether or not one develops in a culture where there is considerable awareness of the subject, even if the ability to identify examples is lacking in the majority of individuals. But, in Spanish, as in the English speaking world, there would seem to be a dearth of evidence indicating the effectiveness of such techniques. Ad agencies may be wasting their efforts - but see the more serious aspects of the discussion material on this site and the FAQs before reaching such a conclusion.

Quo magazine headlines.

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El espot publicitario : Las metamorfosis del deseo

by Jesús González Roquena (1995) Ediciones Cátedra, S.A. , Madrid.

ISBN 8437613108


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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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