As any reader of the pages on this site is aware, the common element in most semi-subliminal advertising is the attempt to associate sexual impulses and thoughts with the product being advertised. However, on occasions, the advertising team do manage to produce something a little different. Love, of example. However, don't get carried away with the idea that true love is what underpins the ad. The rationale is still to manipulate the thoughts and feelings of consumers in the aim of ratching up sales. Peugeot succeeded admirably with their Peugeot 205 (see French Connection) but the connection with love was only the more palatable aspect of their covert attempts at influencing the public. Other Peugeot ads also had semi-subliminal elements.
Peugeot ads were rather sophisticated, whether emphasizing sex or not. Those which follow have considerably less class. In fact, there is not a great deal that one needs to say about adverts such as this. There has not been a great deal of money spent on the artwork and this reflects the economical price of the Lada.
When this ad was produced some years ago the Lada was at the bottom of virtually all lists of UK car purchase preference lists. Nevertheless, the ad campaign may have been making an attempt to get to that part of your brain that other ads try to reach with semi-subliminal content. Look at the licence plate. The letters are as close as one can get to the word sex without actually spelling it properly. To bring the ad up to date whilst also maintaining a connection with French car ads, one might note, tongue in cheek, the engine size(the 1500 on the licence plate). This can be taken as an indication that size matters regardless of ones humble origins.
Here are a couple of ads for Mercedes, a very classy car indeed. In addition, it is a common cliché that a car is often perceived by men as a status symbol and a substitute for their natural member. Is there any need, therefore, for Mercedes to try and associate sex with their car using semi-subliminal artwork.
This would seem to be so as the two ads illustrated here were produced almost a decade apart and each contains a semi-subliminal element. The ad on the left is the oldest and contains a phallic shape and the lettering of the word s e x. The phallic shape is almost split into two pieces but the e and the x are very apparent on the right of the illustration alongside. In addition one might note that the phallic shape fits in quite neatly with the caption 'It grows on you with every mile'.
The more recent of the two ads is the picture of Marilyn Monroe. There hardly seems any need to do any more than associate her picture with the product. But Mercedes introduce a semi-subliminal component anyway.
Look more carefully at the beauty spot on Marilyn's left cheek. The beauty spot is in fact the Mercedes logo. The logo could possibly be considered semi-subliminal but it is likely that viewers would be looking for some indication of the company logo. But there is something in the ad that is definitely semi-subliminal and presented close enough to the Mercedes logo to lead to associative conditioning.
Note that Marilyn has some fine 'broken veins' on her cheek. One might be forgiven for imagining that these were there to be interpreted as the word sex. You will need to find a copy of the original ad to determine this to your complete satisfaction. Although perceiving the 'veins' as lettering could simply be projection there must have been some reason to leave them (or paint them) on the image. It is unlikely that any ad agency would leave any such blemishes on an illustration, especially an illustration of someone generally considered as one of the sexual icons of the 20th century.
It would seem, therefore, that advertising agencies leave nothing to chance. Not even when they are working with the normal appreciation of cultural icons. To associate sex in the minds of viewers with their product they felt they had to resort to semi-subliminal messages rather than depend upon the overt association of a sex symbol with the product. Did it work? Only Mercedes and their advertising agencies know that. Ask them!
We'll leave the final word on this topic of sex to SEAT. Whatever you do in practice, please practice .................................................................
Reversing the argument
It has been claimed by one of the few sites devoted to subliminal advertising (see the Links page) that an ad for the Mazda RX-3SP included the word sex in the model number. Rather surprisingly, this was presented in reverse. There may seem some logic in this as kids often read and write in reverse and upside down but to convince anyone that 'reverse reading' was the basis for producing the model number would need some supplementary information or information from a whistleblower. To conform to the type of evidence the author has striven for on this set of web pages, and demonstrate that this was not simply a one-off, the author of the site this example was drawn from would have to show that other Mazda ads used similar or related features.
Last Revised: 3rd January, 2003