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I have a friend <ahem> who once dabbled in this area.
It's not the most ethical and/or legal of practices, but if done right can indeed be effective - as this famous advert [mohammedi.freeserve.co.uk] proved.
If done wrong, however, you're probably opening yourself up to a whole load of legal trouble...
If the copy just prattles on about features, the reader has to do the work of projecting themselves into the role of "owner", and they usually don't. So you end up with copy that's all about you, and psychologically, no one really cares all that much about you (a hard truth, to be sure). People want you to talk about THEM!
Anyway, I found this thesis which covers the same ground. Interesting read.
<link snipped because it now points to adult material - oilman>
(edited by: oilman at 9:01 pm (gmt) on Oct. 28, 2001
Hmm that reminds me of some people on this thread ;). Okay, I guess you guys aren't insane..
Maybe I'm blind, but after reading the whole thesis, and looking at all the pictures, I saw probably less than 25% of the "hidden" subliminal images the author claimed were there... even after being told exactly what and where the images were.
The whole piece left me with a sort of "emperor's new clothes" kinda feel... One advertisement's glass of ice & bourbon (or whatever) was supposed to contain hidden images of everything from a man on a horse to a naked woman, to a person having s*x with a polar bear, to three (or so) human skulls!?!
I don't doubt that subliminal imagery or text could have an effect on people, just as certain colors evoke different moods, and different fonts have different effects on the feel of a piece. However, I don't think the advertising industry is bombarding us with hidden pictures of polar bear besti@lity, human skulls and symbolic female genitalia in every crevice of an advertisement.
There has to be some happy medium somewhere between total disbelief and total paranoia...
There is one constant that we all may be overlooking here though. Repitition. Frequently placing yourself in front of the buyers. Persistent frequency. Whether through and auto-follow up system or perhaps a monthly newsletter, constantly building up your image as a "must have".
Back to the "it's a numbers game" theory. Target your traffic and then "impression" them until they die or buy.
The colors, artwork, subliminals, coolness factor, designer whizbang thingamaflotchies are all secondary to the fact that the more people who see it, the more possibilities you'll make a sale.
I don't think it's all that widespread these days - I think that article was written in the 70s. I seem to recall that such practices are actually illegal in many jurisdictions now. The principle of psycholgical manipulation is definitely still used though - the imagery used in advertising is carefully chosen to push the buttons of the target audience... it's the same principle only more subtly done.
Repitition. Frequently placing yourself in front of the buyers
Good point, BH. That's how I justify buying banners on Yahoo. The ctr is negligible (although way above average since I placed all the subliminals in the banner ;) but I strongly believe that the branding value is worth it if impressions are well targetted.
Good thread here [webmasterworld.com] on the subject
Of course! The whole point of advertising is to make you want to buy... the ad makes you feel good about a product, makes you feel that the product will give you a desired benefit of some kind. So people get huge focus groups together to find out whether version A or B of the website/product package/traditional ad in question makes people feel warmer and fuzzier about the product.
But, would embedding little hidden skulls in ice cubes really help? (Or polar bear p*rn, for that matter?) And was *any* of that stuff really so widespread? Even in the 70's? How could you outlaw it anyway? I couldn't see most of the "hidden images" referenced in the article, even after being told exactly where to look... can you really outlaw something you can't even see or prove?
One of the frequently used techniques (especially ads in Pl@yboy and other @dult publications) was to play with gender -- airbrushing a female's head and face onto a masculine torso and that kind of thing. We know, deep in our cells, how a male body tends to be proportioned, and how a female body tends to be proportioned. The intermingling of the two produced a subtly disconcerting affect that definitely grabbed attention.
A close-up of a female face with male hands also caught in the shot was a common ploy. The hands might be positioned as if they were hers, but a close look would tell you that they were not. However, the mis-match would pull your attention to the ad.
Major cultural taboos were/are played with in this manner. Any ad that uses three models has a rich ground for playing around with body language and props. Some of the methods used get into territory I would not put into words on this forum.
I used to maintain a scrapbook of some of the most obvious subliminal visual techniques, but I lost it moving a while back.
ARGH!! I would have paid you to scan and upload it for me... as far as visual tricks like you describe, they're used all the time. I think it's fascinating. The human psyche notices things in ways we don't usually realize...
In reference to colors think about it, what sites do you run from; Hot pink, red, blistering yellow and the other colors that make your eyes bleed when you look at the screen. Anyone have any good examples???
If anyone gets this book let me know if it is common sence or is the CIA exceed all of our expectations.
Some of this is a rant.
We read somewhere that high contrasting colors should be avoided. Some tests we ran did back this up when comparing the exact same pages, with a high contrast look and a more subtle color changes. People stayed much longer on the latter, and they clicked on more. They also reported the contrasting colors were "jaring" and the more subtle ones were "relaxing" and "comfortable".
In web design, I know I automatically used to go for high contrasts, something about making the page have impact. If we use high contrast now, its in small strips or blocks, or in sections and graphics we really want people to notice. If you have too much other contrast you distract people from parts of the page you really want them to notice.
Using different shades of similar and restricted color ranges.. (WMW is a good example with the pastel shades of blues, greys and greens) is also recommended by many. For what it's worth thats what we are doing with our sites.
The subliminal Gin advert amazed me, I spent a couple of minutes looking for the message, then read down the posts and once I knew what I was looking for I couldn't believe i'd missed it.
I thought the pictures in the thesis were very vague and hard to make out. In the picture with the girl playing with the doll, how does that portray anything close to se*ual? As for the s-e-x one, I don't know how you missed that..It was the first thing I saw, even before I saw the bottle of gin. Hmmm, well maybe someone will pick out something refering to s*x in the doll picture that I didn't catch that will seem obvious to everyone else..who knows..I'm not young enough to know everything.
I just did some poking around the web, and there is a total chaos out there about subliminal advertising -- everything from calling it an "Urban Myth" with no basis in fact whatsover, to full blown "You are being brainwashed all the time".
In this article [cnn.com] CNN claims there is no validity to subliminal advertising.
Well, I know what I had in my scrapbook. I'm certain that magazine ads have played with these techniques. The bigger question is, do they work. Nobody's talking. The entire area seems obfuscated to me, and filled with disinformation.
The CNN article I linked to above mentions the political brouhaha last fall about the possible use of subliminals in presidential campaign advertising. Here is the USAToday article [usatoday.com].
I never heard any resolution -- it just vanished from the public radar as far as I know.
Now that advertising is almost universaly accepted (or borne with!) it is no longer as important for advertisers to conceal their messages..
He thinks subliminal advertising is therefor no longer relevant. For some audiences, subtlety is important and for some more direct. But the key is still repitition- repitition - repitition, with a strong brand message - though it may be delivered in different ways..
The Gin ad did nothing for me... Couldnt see anything...
Have to go home early now - have a sudden urge to have a romantic dinner and ****tails with my special someone...