I believe that the ad below contains a symbolic subliminal message. Such a message is transmitted via plainly visible objects or images. If they exist, these messages appear framed to appeal to our baser instincts, fears and faculties. Their producers would know from testing and research that the target audience would psychologically repress them; but would hope that at least a certain percentage of viewers will, while consciously ignoring or rationalizing them, subconsciously recognize and respond to them.
The controversy surrounding this type of subliminal stems from a long-running debate over the existence and nature of the subconscious; and from the fact that all things in which humans find symbolic meaning (words, numbers, images, music, etc.) can, and most often do, have multiple meanings. If you doubt that last statement, open any dictionary; you'll see that almost every word listed has multiple meanings. We attach specific meanings from the context in which we find the symbol. When Sigmund Freud famously said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar", I think he meant that in some situations people simply smoke cigars; in others they use them as phallic symbols. Likewise, the objects that convey subliminal meaning in this ad will have different meanings in other contexts. You need to ask, does this specific context give it a subliminal meaning?
Review the ad, then think about the answers I've provided to the questions beneath it. If you disagree with my answers, try to determine what you see that I don't; or vice versa.
|_____||written language||_____||spoken language||_____||music||_____||other sound|
|__X__||image (photo, drawing, etc.)||__X__||color||_____||other visual||_____||other _________________|
|_____||book||__X__||magazine||_____||newspaper||_____||mail or e-mail||__X__||billboard or poster|
|_____||TV||_____||radio||_____||film||_____||CD, audiotape, etc.||_____||other _________________|
Smoking Parliament will satisfy any subconscious death wish you may harbor.
S/he wants women to buy Parliaments.
I usually present this ad to groups just after we've discussed the previous one for Parliament cigarettes. The analysis is much the same, except that this time, instead of being carried off to heaven, the expressionless men are standing at the edge of low-tar cigarette numbers depicted as holes in the ground (graves). Instead of black, we see browns and oranges - fall colors; fall being the time of year when many plants die back and prepare for winter. Once again the planet is barren and we see a setting sun.
This was one in a long-running series of ads. Since advertisers don't waste money on ads that do not generate sales, the longevity of this series attests to its effectiveness.
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original web posting: Thursday, February 28, 2002
last modified: Thursday, December 09, 2004