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Sociology 2172A/B
Gale Cassidy

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I Can’t See Clearly Now Subliminal Messaging, Alive and Well 10/17/2012 2:27:00 PM  Summer of 1957 o William Inge  45699 moviegoers over a 6-week period went to movie theater in Fort Lee, New Jersey for William Inge‟s play Picnic  James Vicary (market researcher) had placed a mechanical slide projector in the screening room, and had projected the words “Drink Coca-Cola” and “Eat Popcorn” for a duration of 1/3000 of a second onscreen every 5 seconds during every showing of the movie  James Vicary o Coined the term subliminal advertising o Claimed that during his experiment, the fort Lee theatre saw an 18.1% increase in Coca-Cola sales and a 57.8% surge in popcorn purchases o Consumers were convinced that the government could use the same kinds of under-the-radar techniques to peddle propaganda, and the Communists could use them to recruit supporters, or that cults could use them to brainwash members. As a result, American television networks and the National Association of Broadcasters banned subliminal ads in June of 1958  1962 o Dr. Henry Link  challenged Vicary to repeat his Coke-and-Popcorn test  This time the experiment yielded no jump whatsoever in either Coke or popcorn sales o Interview with Advertising Age  Vicary admitted his experiment was a gimmick (made up)  Despite Vicary‟s confession, the damage was done, and belief in the power of subliminal messaging had been firmly planted in the American public‟s mind o American Psychological Association pronounced subliminal advertising “confused, ambiguous and not as effective as traditional advertising”  Consumer paranoia about the topic drifted away  15 years after Vicary‟s faux-experiment (1972) o Dr. Wilson B. Key  published Subliminal Seduction with a cover photograph picturing a cocktail with a lemon wedge in it, accompanied by the irresistible teaser, Are you being sexually aroused by this picture?  New wave of paranoia  FCC (Jan. 1974)  announced that subliminal techniques in advertising, whether they worked or not, were “contrary to the public interest,” and therefore, any station using them was in danger of losing its broadcasting license  United States and United Kingdom today o No explicit bans against subliminal advertising o Federal Trade Commission has taken the position that a subliminal ad “that causes consumers to unconsciously select certain goods or services, or to alter their normal behaviour, might constitute a deceptive or unfair practice”  Subliminal Advertising o Visual, auditory, or any other sensory messages that register just below our level of conscious perception and can be detected only by the subconscious mind o Almost register these messages, but not really  The Exorcist (1973) o Moviegoer fainted and broke his jaw on the seat in front of him  sued Warner Brothers, and the filmmakers, claiming that the subliminal images of a demon‟s face flashed throughout the movie had caused him to pass out  Fight Club (1999) o Viewers accused the makers of the film of subliminal manipulation, claiming they had planted pornographic images of Brad Pitt in the movie in a deliberate attempt to enhance the film‟s “anti-work message and revolutionary tone”  Led Zepplen o Play “Stairway to Heaven” backward and you‟ll supposedly hear “Oh, here‟s to my sweet Satan”  Queen o “Another One Bites the Dust” played backward allegedly yields “It‟s fun to smoke marijuana”  1990 o Parents of two 18-year-old boys from Nevada who had attempted suicide took the British heavy-metal band Judas Priest to court, charging that the band had inserted subliminal messages – including “Let‟s be dead” and “Do it” – inside its song lyrics  One of the boys who survived the joint suicide attempt was later quoted in a letter as saying, “I believe that alcohol and heavy-metal music such as Judas Priest led us to be mesmerized”  Suit was later dismissed  Much of the time, when subliminal messages show up in our culture, they‟re selling sex o 1995 Yellow Pages advertisement for an English flooring company called D.J. Flooring, whose motto is “Laid by the Best”  When held upright, this ad features an image of a woman holding a champagne glass, but tip it over, and what you see is an image of a woman masturbating o Exercise machine with bare-chested man  silhouette of an erect penis imprinted on the man‟s abs o Ketchup company  featured a hot dog and, poised over it, a dollop of ketchup coming out of a bottle that resembled a human tongue o Woman with manicured fingers resting on computer mouse  suggests a clitoris  1990 o Pepsi was asked to withdraw one of its specially designed “Cool Can” designs from the market when a consumer complained that when the 6-packs were stacked a certain way, they produced a pattern spelling out s-e-x  Advertising manager denied  saying “The cans were designed to be cool and fun and different; something to get the consumer‟s attention”  Pepsi spokesman insisted that the message was an “odd coincidence”  Some stores play tapes of jazz or Latino music that conceal recorded messages designed to prod shoppers into spending more or to discourage messaging o In stores that broadcast these tapes overall sales are up 15%, while store thefts have fallen by 58%  2006 o KFC ran an ad for its Buffalo Snacker chicken sandwich that, if the viewer replayed it in slow motion, revealed a code that consumers could enter on the KFC Web site to receive a coupon for a free snacker  aimed at countering a rise in ad-skipping technologies such as TiVo; KFC using hidden messages  By the 1990s  “subliminal” had taken on a new name: “primes” or “visual drumbeats”  2006 o Clear Channel Communications introduced “blinks”  radio ads that lasted about 2 seconds  For a blink advertising The Simpsons, listeners hear Homer yelling “Woo-Ho!” against the show‟s theme music before an announcer breaks in: “Tonight on Fox”  Subliminal advertising, or priming, is even alive and well in political messaging o 2000 ad produced by the Republican National Committee in which George W. Bush criticizes Al Gore‟s prescription drug plan for senior citizens  Tagline: “The Gore prescription plan: Bureaucrats decide”  Toward end of ad: the word rats flashes for a split second while an off screen voice reiterates the phrase, “Bureaucrats decide”  Bush dismissed the controversy as “weird and bizarre”; after claiming it was “purely accidental”  Alex Castellaos (creator) confessed the word rats was a visual “drumbeat designed to make you look at the word „bureaucrats‟  2006  Harold Ford incident o Ford, a light-skinned black man, was running a close senate race in Tennessee against white Republican Bob Corker o Explicit – if subliminal – attack on Ford‟s race  Corker and the Republican National Committee produced an ad in which every time the narrator talked about Ford, African tom-tom drums beat, just barely audibly, in the background  Final words: “Harold Ford: He‟s Just Not Right”  can be inferred to mean “He‟s just not white”  Harvard University (1999) o Tested the power of subliminal suggestions on 47 people from 60 to 85 year olds o Flashed a series of words on a screen for a few thousandths of a second while the subjects played a computer game that they were told measured the relationship between their physical and mental skills  One group was exposed to positive words, including wise, astute, and accomplished  Other group was given words like senile, dependent, and diseased o Purpose: to see whether exposing elderly people to subliminal messages that suggested stereotypes about aging could affect their behaviour, specifically, how they walked o Harvard team then measured the subjects‟ walking speed and so-called “swing time” (the time they spent with one foot off the ground)  According to the lead researcher, Harvard professor of medicine Jeffrey Hausdorff, “The gait of those exposed to positive words improved by almost 10%”  positive stereotypes had a positive psychological effect on the subjects, which in turn improved their physical performance  Subliminal messaging has been shown to influence how much we are willing to pay for a product o Brief exposure to images of smiling or frowning faces for 16 milliseconds affected the amount of money test subjects were willing to pay for a beverage  When subjects saw flashes of smiling faces, they poured significantly more drink from a pitcher – and were willing to pay twice as much for it – than when they viewed the angry faces  “Unconscious emotion”  a minute emotional change had taken place without the subjects being aware of either the stimulus that caused it or any shift in their emotional states  The origin of a product may subconsciously influence how likely we are to buy it o E.g. Perfume printed with Dusseldorf on it vs. Perfume printed with Paris on it  2005  UPenn postdoctoral student, Sean Polyn o Used fMRI to study the ways in which the brain hunts down specific memories o Volunteers were shown approximately 90 images in 3 separate categories: famous faces (Halle Berry, Jack Nicholson), well-known places (e.g. the Taj Majal), and common everyday objects (nail clippers)  Subjects were able to recall what category – celebrities, famous places, everyday items – the image was in before they could even recall the name of the image, suggesting that the human brain is capable of recalling images before those images register in our consciousness  Cigarette-related investigation o 20 smokers from the United Kingdom o Posed questions about subliminal messaging o Mind experiment: Chic urban bar  stylish upholstery in a familiar shade of red covering the chairs and couches, cocktail beckoning you from the bar  gives you an urge to smoke  Cigarette companies including Philip Morris, which manufacturers Marlboro, and the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, which owns Camel, funnel a huge percentage of their marketing budget into this kind of subliminal brand exposure  Philip Morris  offers bar owners financial incentives to fill their venues with color schemes, specially designed furnitures, ashtrays, suggestive tiles designed in captivating shapes similar to parts of the Marlboro logo, and other subtle symbols that, when conveyed, convey the very essence of Marlboro – without even the mention of the brand name or the sight of an actual logo. These “installations,” or “Marlboro Motels” as they‟re known in business, usually consist of lounge areas filled with comfy Marlboro red sofas positioned in front of TV screens spooling scenes of the Wild West all designed to evoke the essence of the iconic “Marlboro Man”  To ensure the greatest possible exposure for its product, Marlboro also markets rugged, collectible outdoor cowboy clothing, including gloves, watches, caps, scarves, boots, vests, jackets, and jeans all designed to evoke associations with the brand  In Malaysia, Benson & Hedges has sponsored brand-themed coffee shops selling products emblazoned with the cigarette‟s gold logo. As the manager of one of these Kuala Lumpur cafes put it: “The idea is to be smoker-friendly. Smokers associate coffee with cigarettes. They are both drugs of a type”  Donna Sturgess (global head of innovation for the consumer business of GlaxoSmithKline)  “It‟s an unfortunate irony that as a result of government bans, tobacco companies have fast-forwarded into the future – and moved into alternative media, methods and mediums as a way to drive their business. In effect, cigarette companies have been forced to develop a whole new set of skills” o NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing)  Oversees approximately 1500 races annually at over 100 tracks in America, Canada, and Mexico  Televises its races in over 150 countries  Second-most popular professional sport in the United States, behind the National Football League  Approximately 75 million fans purchase over $3 billion in annual licensed product sales  NASCAR Website  NASCAR‟s fans “are considered the most brand-loyal in all of sports an as a result, Fortune 500 companies sponsor NASCAR more than any other governing body” o Formula One  Roots and leading market  Europe  Hosts a series of highly publicized Grands Prix  If your ads have been knocked off TV and banned by governments around the world, what better way to convey that feeling of risk, cool, youth, dynamism, raciness, and living on the edge than to sponsor a race car o Subliminal Tobacco Advertising  Using two iconic and popular brands: Marlboro and Camel  American volunteers shown an ad of smokers with globs of fat pouring out of the tip of their cigarettes  point being that smoking spreads these globs of fat throughout your blood stream  Just as with the cigarette warning labels, viewing this ad had caused respondents‟ craving spots to come alive  Overt, direct, visually explicit antismoking messages did more to encourage smoking than any deliberate campaign Marlboro or Camel could have come up with  Subliminal tobacco ad test  Images showed to volunteers: cowboy with rugged landscape behind him; two man on horseback; hillside in the American West; jeep speeding down a mountain road; lipstick-coloured sunset; parched desert; bright red Ferraris; racing gear from both Formula 1 and NASCAR, including red cars and mechanics wearing red jumpsuits  Images had 2 things in common:  Associated with cigarette commercials from back in the era when governments permitted cigarette advertising  Not a single cigarette, logo, or brand name was anywhere in sight  All subjects were asked to refrain from smoking for 2 hours preceding the test, to ensure that their nicotine levels would be equal at the start of the experiment  Both groups were shown subliminal images that had no overt connection to cigarette brands, i.e. western style scenery. Next, they were shown explicit cigarette advertising images, i.e. Marlboro Man  Both sets of images caused activity in the craving regions of the brain  Only difference was that the subliminal images prompted more activity in the volunteers‟ primary visual cortex (complex visual task of processing those images)  Logo-free images associated, like the Ferrari and the sunset, triggered more cravings among smokers than the logos or the images of the cigarette packs themselves  Direct emotional relationship between the qualities the subjects associated with Formula 1 and NASCAR – masculinity, sex, power, speed, innovation, coolness – and the cigarette brands that sponsored them  When consumers were exposed to red Ferraris and racer jumpsuits, they subconsciously linked those associations to the brand  Everything Formula 1 and NASCAR represent was subliminally transformed into representing the brand  Does subliminal advertising work?  Yes.  Since the subliminal images didn‟t show any visible logos, the smokers weren‟t consciously aware that they were viewing an advertising message, and as a result they let their guard down  In 1997, in preparation for the ban on tobacco advertising that was about to come into place in the United Kingdom, Silk Cut, a popular British tobacco brand, began to position its logo against a background of purple silk in every ad that it ran  consumers associate purple silk with Silk Cut logo, and eventually with the brand itself  Study revealed that 98% of consumers identified purple billboards as having something to do with Silk Cut, although most were unable to say exactly why  By banning tobacco advertising, governments are unwittingly helping to promote the deadly behaviour they seek to eliminate  Study showed that “the logo was, if not dead, then certainly on life support; that the thing we thought was most powerful in advertising was in fact the least so” o What are the least powerful ads in prompting you to smoke?  Tobacco ads without warning disclaimers  Ads with warning disclaimers  Merchandising (astrays, hats) o More powerful  subliminal imagery, particularly the Formula 1/NASCAR association This Must Be The Place Product Placement, American Idol, and Ford’s Multimillion Dollar mistake 10/17/2012 2:27:00 PM  By the time we reach the age of 66, most of us will have seen approximately 2 million television commercials  equivalent to watching 8 hours of ads 7 days a week for 6 years straight o 1965  typical consumer had a 34% recall of those ads o 1990  typical consumer had 8% recall of those ads  2007 ACNielsen survey of 1000 consumers found that the average person could name 2.21 commercials of those they had ever seen  Reasons people can‟t remember commercials or companies who sponsored their favorite TV shows: o Fast-moving, ever-changing, always-on media assault  The Internet with its pop-ups and banner ads, cable TV, 24 hour news stations, etc. are all competing for our increasingly finite and worn-out attention spans  Result: the filtering system in our brains has grown thick and self- protective o Lack of originality on the part of advertisers  Reasoning: if what we‟ve been doing has worked for years, why shouldn‟t we just keep on doing it?  Like saying, if I‟m a baseball player who‟s been striking out regularly for the past decade, why should I bother changing my swing, or altering my stance, or gripping the bat a little differently?  Car Experiment o Taped 60 different TV car commercials produced by 20 different automotive companies  each had been running on TV for the past 2 years, had a scene in which the new, shiny, and seemingly driverless car guns its way around a hairpin turn in the desert, sending up a dramatic little cloud of dust o Though the make of car might have differed, the scene was exactly the same in every commercial  couldn‟t tell one car from the other when put in a montage  June 11, 2002 o British TV show, Pop Idol, crossed to the United States o Its retitled debut as American Idol became one of the most popular and successful shows in American television history overnight  Would not have been aired in the U.S. if Rupert Murdoch‟s daughter, a huge fan of the show, hadn‟t persuaded her father to take a chance on it o American Idol has 3 main sponsors:  Cingular Wireless (has since been bought by AT&T)  Ford Motor Company  Coca-Cola  Each spend over an estimated $26 million annually to have their brands featured on one of the highest-rated shows in television history o Study by PG Media  money spent globally to have products featured in TV shows, music videos, and movies  2006  $3.36 billion  2007  $4.38 billion  2010  Estimated to spend $7.6 billion o Two kinds of ads:  Product Integration  products that play a role or part in a TV show or movie  Commercials  standard 30 second advertising spots that run during commercial breaks o On American Idol, Coke and Cingular Wireless no only run 30 second ads during commercial breaks, they also feature their products during the show itself  Simon Cowell  commented, “How much I love Coca-Cola” – and then took a sip  Judges keep cups of Coke in front of them  Judges and contestants sit on chairs or couches with rounded contours specifically designed to look like a bottle of Coca-Cola  Coca-Cola is present approximately 60% of the time  Cingular pops up throughout the show to a lesser extent  Ryan Seacrest (host) reminds us that viewers can vote for their favourate contestant from a Cingular Wireless (text messages from other cell phone providers are discarded, meaning you have to call in for a fee or forever hold your peace)  Cingular logo – which looks like an orange cat splattered on a road – shows up alongside every set of phone and text-messaging numbers shown onscreen  2006  Cingular announced it would begin offering ring tones of live performances from the previous night‟s show to download to their mobile phones. The cost: $2.95  Ford‟s $26 million goes only toward traditional 30 second ad spots  2006  Ford announced that it had hired American Idol Taylor Hicks to record an up-tempo, feel-good song for both TV and radio entitled “Possibilities” to promote the company‟s new “Drive On Us” end-of- year sales event  American Idol Season 6  Ford produced original music videos featuring the company‟s cars which ran during the commercial breaks in each of the final 11 shows and partnered with the American Idol website for a weekly sweepstakes promotion  Jeff Gaspin (president of NBC Universal Television Group)  “The shift from programmer- to consumer-controlling program choices is the biggest change in the media business in the past 25 or 30 years”  “Wallpaper” ads – instantly forgettable, the advertising equivalent of elevator Muzak  SST Study  first to assess the power to (or pointlessness) of the product placement industry o Research team could view – and mathematically measure – exactly what subject‟s brain waves were doing in real time o SST could measure:  The degree of subjects‟ emotional engagement (how interested they were in what they were watching)  Memory (what parts of what they were watching were penetrating long-term memory)  Approach and withdraw (what attracted or rebelled them about the visual image) o Professor Silberstein (head researcher)  SST would reveal “how different parts of the brain talk to one another” o Brain-scan subjects presented with a sequence of 20 product logos, each one appearing for a single second  Some were logos for companies that aired 30 second commercials during American Idol, including Coke, Ford, and Cingular  Branded logos  Other logos were from companies that had no products placed within the show, including Fanta, Verison, Target, and eBay  Unbranded logos (no connection or sponsorship affiliation with the show) o Viewers were shown a 20 minute long special edition of American Idol, as well as an episode of a different show o When viewers had finished watching the 2 shows, the same sequence of logos were rescreened 3 times in a row o Neuromarketing research has found that consumers‟ memory of a product is the most relevant, reliable measure of an ad‟s effectiveness. It is also linked with the subjects‟ future buying behaviour o In the before-the-program testing the subjects showed no more memory for these products than for any of the other randomly chosen products they viewed before the study began o After viewing the programs, subjects showed greater recall for the branded logos than for the unbranded ones  After watching the two shows, subjects‟ memories for the branded logos, like Coke and Cingular, had crowded out memories of the unbranded ones, such as Pepsi and Verizon  SST results showed that Coca-Cola was way more memorable than Cingular Wireless and far more memorable than Ford  In its post-program test, subjects remembered less about Ford commercials than they had before they entered the study  Watching the Coke-saturated show actually suppressed subjects‟ memories of the Ford ads  The results revealed that we have no memory of brands that don‟t play an integral part in the storyline of a program  By merely sipping Coke onstage, the 3 judges forged a powerful association between the drink and the emotions provoked by the show  Cingular became associated as the instrument through which contestants can either accomplish their dreams or at the very least become a D-list celebrity  Products that play an integral part in the narrative of a program are not only more memorable, they even appear to have a double-barreled effect  Double-barreled effect they not only increase our memory of the product, but they actually weaken our ability to remember the other brands  Ford‟s multimillion-dollar mistake  the brand did not play a fundamental part of the storyline and so viewer‟s didn‟t remember it  Product Placement o Lumiere brothers included several appearances of Lever‟s sunlight soap in their early short films o Product began to blossom in the 1930s o 1932  White Owl Cigars provided $250000 worth of advertising for the film Scarface, on the condition that star Paul Muni would smoke them in the movie o By mid-1940s  rare to see a kitchen in a Warner Brothers film without a General Electric fridge, or a love story that didn‟t end in a man presenting a woman with diamonds (sponsored by the DeBeers Company) o Steven Spielberg‟s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial  Elliot places Hershey‟s Reese‟s Pieces along the path from the forest leading into his house in order to lure E.T. out of hiding  Spielberg first approaches the Mars Company, the makers of M&Ms, to ask if they‟d be willing to pay to have their product featured in the film  Mars turned him down  A week after the movie‟s debut, sales of Reese‟s Pieces tripled, and within a couple months of its release, more than 800 cinemas across the country began stocking Reese‟s Pieces in their concession stands for the first time o Risky Business (1983)  Directed by Paul Brickman  Tom Cruise gave Ray-Bans a whole lot of renewed cachet  When the movie became a hit, Ray-Ban sales rose by over 50% o Top Gun  Directed by Tony Scott  Tom Cruise wore Air Force leathers and Aviator Ray-Bans  Ray-Ban saw an additional boost of 40% to its bottom line  Sales of glasses and leather aviator jackets rose  Air Force and Navy recruitment increased by 500% o Men in Black II (2002)  Will smith wore what were now extremely retro shades  Ray-Ban‟s sales tripled, amounting to the equivalent of $25 million in free ads o Die Another Day (2002)  James Bond franchise  Displayed 23 brands over the course of 123 minutes  Critics questioned the movie‟s integrity, some even dubbing it Buy Another Day o Driven (2001)  Directed by Sylvester Stallone  Displayed 103 brands in 117 minutes – almost a brand every 60 seconds o Transformers (2007)  Had unannounced cameos from AAA, Apple, Aquafina, AT&T, and Austin-Healey – those were just the As  68 companies made appearances in the film o We‟re overwhelmed by a constant stream of in-your-face product placement  Result: Snow-blindness o Casino Royale  Latest James Bond movie starring Daniel Craig  FedEx, Omega, Sony, Louis Vuitton, Ford  made uncredited walk- ons  Ford manufactures every car in Casino Royale including a Land Rover, a Jaguar, a Lincoln, and Bond‟s signature Aston Martin o Leslie Moonves (chairman of the CBS Corporation) predicts that soon up to 75% of all scripted primetime network shows will feature products and plotlines that advertisers have paid for o Rance Crain, the editor-in-chief of Advertising Age  “Advertisers will not be satisfied until they put their mark on every blade of grass” o In order for product placements to work, the product has to make sense within the show‟s narrative Advertising and Product Placement And Now, the Star of the Show 10/17/2012 2:27:00 PM  Product placements  brand-named items that are intentionally placed in movies and on television programs  Product placement “controversy” has increased in advertising circles  3 well-known examples of advertisers sponsoring entire programs: o Kraft Television Theatre o General Electric College Bowl o Mutual of Omaha‟s Wild Kingdom  3 reasons why advertisers might want to place their products in movies (D‟Astous and Chartier – 2000) o Watching a movie involves high attention, so the assumption is that some of that “super” attention might fall on the product o Movies can produce large audiences (with shrinking television audiences, this is becoming even more important) o The “natural” placement may make audience members less irritated than they sometimes are with in-your-face advertising (happy viewer is potentially a happy customer)  Many products that we see in movies today are not even “placed”. Instead, they‟re merely used in the movie at the discretion of the director for creative realism  The aliens in Roswell liked to sprinkle Tabasco sauce on everything
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