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What's happening to the British Publishing Industry? First they develop loads of 'laddish' magazines and their female equivalents.  Then they exported them to the US  This was quickly followed by British imports of US versions of some of these magazines and these are sold alongside the British version.  Now we also seem to have a growing tide of British versions of US magazines and US imports on the shelves of W.H.Smith and other vendors.

Have the British purchasers of magazines such as Details, Empire, Allure, Gear and Essence seemly taken a fancy to American goods and American advertising as accompaniments to their gear, booze, toiletries and half naked (and naked) members of the opposite sex and other delights?   If the growth in imports were simply related to a national desire to widen ones sphere of reading and enhancements in reading standards there would be no need for concern.  But there is cause for concern where the advertising in these magazines is concerned.

Most of the imported US magazines and the US versions of British magazines carry American advertising, including, in many instances, a great deal more cigarette and tobacco advertising than any British magazine. One would expect US magazines and American versions of British magazines such as Maxim to carry American ads. It would therefore seems appropriate for British versions of American magazines to carry ads for British goods and services.   Not so.   All of these magazines carry American cigarette adverts. 

This is curious.  Even if the relevant brands of cigarettes were not in great supply, giving the Brits a dose of American cigarette advertising might give them a taste for essentially American brands such as Kool, Salem and Lucky Strike.  Others such as Camel and Marlboro are, of course, already widely on sale in the UK  There might be some commercial justification for such ads if the aim were to develop world wide brands as a means of eliminating costly duplication of advertising and marketing costs.  But there could be a less acceptable explanation underlying this plethora of magazines carrying advertising for US cigarette brands.

The growing selection of imports offers an opportunity to increase demand for American goods among British consumers. It also offers the perfect opportunity for tobacco companies to circumvent the hard won UK agreements limiting the ability of tobacco companies to advertise their unhealthy product and help them maintain their appeal to youngsters and young adults.  Similar actions can also of course circumvent the forthcoming European wide ban on advertising.  The actions of A.S.H. and other organizations could be set back years if there is continued proliferation of US Magazines at the same time as there is an equivalent cutback in British publishing.

For an indication of what the problem is like, take a look at the cigarette ads in imported magazines. Some examples are shown below and many others can be viewed elsewhere on this site.  These cover the range from male magazines such as Detail, Gear, Maxim and Esquire to the female magazines such as Essence, Elle, etc. and others of a more general nature e.g. the movie magazines Empire and Premiere.  Hardly any of the cigarette ads in these magazines would be acceptable to the Advertising Standards Authority (A.S.A.) even although the ASA already has a poor record in dealing with cigarette advertising.    The A.S.A. is completely toothless where foreign advertising is concerned. All they can do is write to the appropriate national body and request changes that are unlikely to take place.   These limitations allow any ad produced overseas to be widely distributed in the UK irrespective of whether or not it breaches UK standards.

If the magazines noted above make marked inroads into the UK marketplace then the advertising they are carrying can be expected to have an impact on some viewers.  It is likely to be problematical enough if overseas ads can circumvent UK and European legislation (if any is ever forthcoming). It is even more disturbing if semi-subliminal advertising is influential (see the FAQs). A very large proportion of American cigarette ads contain this unethical advertising material.  The Salem ad that follows is typical.

Click for a larger, floating, image.  Salem ad with embedded sex.The ad incorporates a strapline drawing attention to whatever is 'Breaking out'.    Conscious attention associated with the strapline is most likely to focus on the shrub sprouting from the pavement.  However, there are other less obvious elements in the ad that are also 'Breaking out'.  

Note the set of railings in the top right hand corner  of the advert.  Behind the railings are chalked letters, as illustrated in the inset on the right (actual 'sex behind bars' in Salem adsize).  In versions of this ad placed on an odd numbered page this would be one of the first aspects of the ad to be 'noticed' as the preceding page was turned. 

It does not require too much imagination to note that the word scrawled behind the railings is most likely the word SEX.  There is a clear S and a 'five pointed' X.  A 'missing' letter E is also hinted at in the top right quadrant of the illustration and again behind the cross bar.   It is 'sex' that is 'Breaking out'. 

Elsewhere in the ad are further subtle renditions of similar 'letters'. There are also other features of this ad worth noting.  The most obvious is, of course, the wording in the top left offers the caption: Salem: It's not what you expect.  Quite true, one doesn't expect to find ones advertising monkeyed about to this extent.   Other Salem ads can be found elsewhere on this site.   These also contain semi-subliminal material.

Note also, that the strapline 'breaking out' is not simply relevant to this ad.  It is Click for a larger, floating, image. Camel Jail ad part 1. equally relevant to another pair of adverts presented some 14 pages later in the same magazine. This, Click for a larger, floating, image. Camel Jail ad with embedded figures Part 2. relevance is not chance, even though the pair of ads are for Camel cigarettes, not Salem. Both Salem and Camel are produced by RJReynolds-Nabisco.

The ads thus do not seem to be promoting brands, as is often claimed by tobacco companies.   The combination of Salem and Camel ads are apparently promoting cigarette smoking as a rebellious activity at the same time as they are promoting sexual activity and associating the brand names with sex.   The semi-subliminal sexual elements in the Salem ad were noted above.   In the Camel ads cigarettes a convict breaks out of jail under the watchful eye of the jailer and on first impression, does not appear to contain any sexual elements. But if one looks closely at the tied up bed sheets used to climb down thefigures in the missionary position hole it does not require much imagination to perceive that two rag doll-like figures depict a couple in the missionary position.  There is a tiny male on top of a larger female.  Additionally, with a further stretch of the imagination, one can imagine that the elongated (phallic) shape to which the 'female' is clinging is intended to be perceived as her partners penis.    If you think this is farfetched, then read on.  

For additional examples of this type of American tobacco ad and illustrations of a wider range of semi-subliminal content, from masturbating men to embedded faces and sexual messages, see the Marlboro , Kamel and Camel pages.

The Salem and Camel ads were produced in the United States and are thus not subject to the limited UK guidelines enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority (A.S.A.). To see how weak the A.S.A. is with regard to subliminal and semi-subliminal advertising one need only refer to the correspondence the author had with Steve Ballinger and Manisha Yagnik of the A.S.A.  The A.S.A. page also contains extracts from various A.S.A. guidelines pertinent to UK Cigarette and other advertising. Such guidelines mean nothing where Lucky Strike and other US ads are concerned.

Illustrated below are other ads for American products culled from the same monthly magazine. 

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This section was originally written around June, 2000. For an update from November the same year see the magazine clipping on the News page. This indicates that a 'wave' of American womens magazines carrying American cigarette ads can be added to the extensive range of magazines illustrated above.


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Suck it and see.

One might note that some of the American magazines mentioned above also include ads for tobacco products other than cigarettes.  There are ads for Rooster and Copenhagen chewing tobacco. One wonders if they offer free spittoons to users.Rooster Ad  Older viewers of these Web pages may remember the horrendous cases of mouth and throat cancer in young children a couple of decades ago.  These were produced by so-called tobacco based sweets named Skoal Bandits. Skoal ad These were on sale in the UK for a relatively short period before they were withdrawn.  But not before many children had become addicted to nicotine and others had developed oral and throat cancers.

Chewing tobaccos and tobacco sweets are often considered safer than smoking tobacco. They are simply dangerous in different ways - and equally addictive. They are often viewed as 'stepping stones' to the real thing. On the basis of increased in imported magazines carrying such ads, ads that would not generally not be permitted in UK and European publications, 'Are we about to see another wave of imported products that appeal to many youngsters and their risk taking tendencies?'     Lets hope not. 

There are other, non US, tobacco companies interested in extending the sales of addictive, flavoured, tobacco products. These are likely to be favoured by youngsters interested in experimenting but not yet willing to try smoking cigarettes. Babul flavoured chewing tobacco, for example, is advertised in magazines devoted to movies from the Indian sub-continent. The ad illustrated carries the caption "Feel the Power". This is a message about tobacco that would not normally be permitted in the UK.

Censorship of imported magazines is clearly not an answer. The solution would seem to lie in the hands of consumers generally. Take into account the companies producing, distributing and selling such products - and make your shopping decisions according.*

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*In this respect. If any viewer indicates that any of the companies whose ad banners appear on the Subliminal World are involved in unethical advertising and promote cigarette sales to youngsters anywhere in the world please

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Striking it lucky?

Click for a larger, floating, image. Lucky Strike ad with embedded figures.In the same magazine as the Salem and Camel ads discussed above was this ad for Lucky Strike cigarettes.  It is seemingly yet another innocuous ad, simply depicting an everyday scene in a bar.  

However, note that the individuals displayed are anonymous.  In fact, so far as the ad is concerned, as individuals, they are completely unimportant.  The woman is apparently simply a sex object for the equally anonymous, smoking, male.  Any viewer, male or female could identify with the predatory male or the seductive female.  Various other aspects of the ad indicate that it is quite appropriate to apply the terms seductive and predatory to the two participants in this scene. 

The woman is posed in such a way that it looks as though her left breast is bare - either that or else she has a marked disparity between the size of her left and right breasts.  The shape of her left breast is also mimicked by her thrust forward left knee.  A 'nice pair' as Gear, Maxim or any other lads magazine would comment.  There are also features in the ad that would indicate that the male smoker has apparently just 'struck lucky'.  

Look at the smoke curling up from his cigarette (see the enlarged section of the ad below).  The lower section is quite clearly formed into the shape of a young woman wearing a short skirt.  Above this figure there is a 'ball' of smoke and embedded in the 'girl' in smokeball' are criss-cross shapes that can be interpreted as various sized letters, superimposed upon one another.   The most obvious 'letters' are SEX. 

The overall message of this ad, although oblique and indirect, is clearly  intended to indicate to young males that sexual conquest is likely if they smoke Lucky Strike.   This message is simply reinforcement of a message that runs across a whole series of Lucky Strike ads. Another Lucky Strike ad can be found on the Gatwick Trilogy page.

If one analyses ads such as this, noting the individual elements and features, rather than simply 'taking in' the ad as a whole, there are other semi-subliminal features that can generally be noted.  Each feature is calculated to enhance the likelihood that viewers will internalize the key elements of the intended message (or messages).   In this case one can also note that to the rear of the young mans left knee, embedded on his jeans, is a 'face' with a large gaping mouth and two beady eyes.  The nose is only hinted ad but it is just above the mouth, where a moustache would normally be.  This can be taken as a reminder that smoking is an oral activity.'face' in jeansReminders of orality are also common in Marlboro ads.

A perceptive viewer might also discern another criss-cross patchwork of 'lettering' above the mouth.   The combination of these elements constitute a salutary, if semi-subliminal, reminder that smoking and sex are activities calculated to relieve anxiety and manage moods.  And, despite the brand related caption, An American Original, there is nothing 'face' in jeansoriginal about such an association.  Freud and other psychoanalytically inclined researchers noted this many years ago. 

What is original about such ads, is the tendency of advertising agencies to make use of psychological insight into the needs of smokers and implement them using techniques that viewers will not become consciously aware of.  Ever since psychological research into motivational factors came into vogue such insights have been applied whenever possible. Their application has always provided advertisers with levers to exploit the fallibility's and weaknesses of potential and actual customers.   Their use in semi-subliminal advertising indicates that theories and techniques developed by psychologists and others will now be applied regardless of whether their application it is ethical or note.  

The ad discussed above seems to be one of a long line of Lucky Strike ads that have 1920's adincorporated semi-subliminal elements. Illustrated here are two ads shown in Stephen Bayley's book The Lucky Strike Packet by Raymond Loewy. One dates Loewy Lucky Strike Packet book cover. back to 1926, the other is more recent and is dated at 1980.

The 1926 ad seems to be pretty innocuous, as is the case with most of these ads. But one simply needs to look more carefully at the different elements of the pattern around the cigarette packet to see that quite a large portion of it is composed of letters.

To the top left of the packet is a clear S to the mid right is a clear E. To the bottom left of the pack is an apparent collage of letters. On this reproduction it is not possible to detect a clear X but it seems, nevertheless, that this ad was trying to produce an association between sex and lucky strike cigarettes.

The ad from 1980 again seems innocuous. It sports a young woman wearing a Lucky strike 'Light my Lucky'lumberjack type check jacket. On her sweatshirt or jersey one can determine a face, most likely that of an overweight, middle-aged, male. He is looking downwards toward the young womans stomach and genital area.

The caption is 'Light my Lucky'. Take into account that there would seem to be 'lettering' on the right cuff of her jacket and again directly underneath the cuff and the caption appears to be a double entendre. These are not very distinct on this reduced illustration and are more likely to be evident on the original ad. Note also the texturing of the rocks at the bottom of the ad alongside the cigarette pack. The allow plenty of scope to construction of the letters S and X once such a topic 'enters ones mind' .

These tendencies are not restricted to one single company.  Anyone who has read through a number of the pages on this sight will have noted that there is Click for a larger, floating, image. Marlboro Rock Face ad with embedded 'faces'. a strong tendency for all the major tobacco companies to use the same techniques and emphasize the same themes in their ads e.g. a recent Marlboro ad also strongly emphasized the oral nature of smoking (and its outcome).   The consistency of usage would seem to indicate either a remarkable degree of coincidence or a degree of collusion between tobacco companies. They all share a desire to inveigle and pummel potential embedded face in cliffsmokers into a habit that the three quarters of them will find almost impossible to break. 

Two of the relevant portions of the Marlboro Lights ad shown embedded face in cliffabove can be illustrated here (actual size). These are 'faces' embedded in the cliff. One has its mouth wide open, indicative of a reminder that smoking is an oral habit. The fact that the faces are encased in rock is also a reminder that the last reminder of a smoker's existence is likely to be carved in stone. R.I.P.

In sophisticated cigarette ads it is not unusual to find many of the semi-subliminal cues related to both of the two key themes underpinning cigarette advertising: sex and anxiety/death. Marlboro ads are nothing, if not sophisticated. If you are a potential or actual smoker, treat them as superficial images at your peril. They are, in fact, the most deadly images on these pages if semi-subliminal content is capable of influencing behaviour, directly or indirectly.

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It seem pertinent to conclude on a rather biased historical note.  During the Second World War there was a disparaging saying about Americans G.I.'s.  They were deemed to be 'Over Sexed, Over Bearing and Over Here'.   Whatever the historical reality and the misperceptions that produced such sayings, there is likely to be some truth in this aphorism when applied to US Tobacco Companies.  Their ethical standards (or rather lack of them) indicate that such a saying might, on this occasion, be deemed appropriate.  The US ads, with their semi-subliminal attempts to unconsciously strengthen an already pre-existing cultural association between sex and cigarettes, would seem to be an indication of the second coming of some very unacceptable Yanks indeed. 

For additional commentary on other Marlboro cigarettes ads see the Second Time Around and other pages.   There are also a variety of ads for Camel and other American brands sprinkled throughout the site.

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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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