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By Brannon B.

If I asked you if you believed you were being brainwashed by the media on a daily basis what would you answer? After you read this article you will probably answer with a definite yes. Believe it or not, the word SEX or sexual objects can be found in, but not limited to, advertisements by Subway, Coca-Cola, Krispy-Kreme, Pepsi, Skittles, Magazine covers, Movie posters, car ads, and alcohol ads. There is a vodka magazine ad where the word “Sex” is visible in the ice cubes. There is a subway ad online where you can see the word “sex” rising off of the sub in steam. These are just a few of the many examples you can find.

In today's society it is no easy task getting the attention of the consumer. There are over 7 billion people on the planet. All of them eat, wear clothes, and buy goods. Most all of them consume media on some level whether it be internet, television, radio, or magazines. In an ever competitive market advertisers will go to any lengths to get the attention and more importantly, the money, from these people. In 2010, internet advertising alone was over $26 billion .The same year, television advertising was over $ 50 billion. These figures do not include magazines, newspapers, billboards, product placement, movie commercials, and branding & marketing expenses. (1)

Advertisers try every angle to reach the masses whether it be humor or something that touches the heart. Sometimes they attempt to tap into your intellect in a given situation for example if you are buying a new computer. But when sales are slumping and the economy isn't producing enough results it leaves the advertisers wanting more. When they can't get buyers in the stores what is an alternative approach to advertising? They turn to your subconscious through subliminal manipulation.

Subliminal stimuli, meaning "below threshold" are any sensory stimuli below an individual's threshold for conscious perception. (2) The most important thing to understand here is that clinical studies show that the human mind is always taking in information from its senses; hearing, seeing, feeling, smells, etc... This can be images that flash so quickly that the conscious mind doesn't pick up on it, or it can be audio, chanting, or music for example, that is so low that you don't hear it consciously but the brain picks up on it. Subliminal stimuli has been studied and used in many areas of research to understand the human mind and discover if a person can be controlled and to what extent. Advertisers use these methods to control buyers.

Subliminal advertising began its growth in the 70's although it dates back as far is the 20s in modern research and even back to 5th Century BC where the Greeks used the science of rhetoric as a way of influencing people. In the 20's the BBC used a jingle in which words were recorded backwards in an attempt to influence the listeners. In 1957 James Vicory claimed that by inserting single framed images into films (1/2000th of a second every five seconds) that read "Drink Coca-Cola" and "Eat Popcorn" increased the sales up to 58% for popcorn and 18% for Coca-Cola. Although the viewer didn't see the single frame advertising the subconscious picked up on it and influenced the viewer to buy the products.  
The Federal Communications Commission banned "subliminal advertising" from radio and television airwaves in 1974. But that hasn't stopped advertisers from doing it.

In the 1980s, sales of Reese's Pieces candies rose 65 percent after they were shown in the film E.T. By 2006, product placement had become a $4 billion industry. (3)  Once the success of this phenomenon was discovered clinical studies began attempting to explore the depths of the control that could be used on consumers and the human brain in general. It was found that the influence is most likely short-term and it needs to be something the consumer already wants. This lead researches and advertisers to narrowing the stimuli to something almost everyone wants. Using FMRI technology researches can visually see that the brain reacts to certain stimuli. When the topic of sex is being discussed, the brain lights up like a Christmas tree.

The use of sex in advertising is something that has become so undetectable and used so often that we don't even notice it any more. Most, if not all, major brands attempt to infuse sexuality into their product advertising to make the consumer want it. In numerous examples, the word SEX or the use of body parts, sexual positions, and phallic objects are used to subliminally charge the consumer and cause them to want the product. (4)

In this beer ad subliminal advertising is used. Turn the picture upside down for clearer proof. This is one of many examples of how advertisers are getting your wallet’s attention.

Through creative art you can find hidden words in print advertising, sexual positions, sub-level audio, and words said backwards. Even the use of subliminal smell is being experimented with in movie theaters to enhance the viewer's experience. The more that is discovered about the human mind, the more it is manipulated by big brand advertisers. The next time you're pulling out your wallet you may want to ask yourself why.

Works Cited

Subliminal Advertising:



(3) ABSTRACT The Evolution of Product Placement and its Impact On Consumers Today - Leigh Ann Hornick