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Asked by Grace Tillman
Marketing Advertising and Sales

Do subliminal messages work, and are they in advertising?


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Lorenza Eichmann
December 18, 2019 8:41PM

This one’s pretty tricky. First of all, subliminal messages are images or words that you’re exposed to so briefly or covertly that you don’t realize you’ve experienced them. Proponents of subliminal advertising claim that your subconscious is so deeply affected by these messages that behavior can change drastically, and it’s so subtle that you think you came up with the idea yourself.

Sounds pretty nefarious, but don’t worry too much. The most famous study about subliminal advertising—the one where “Eat popcorn” and “Drink Coca-Cola” was inserted for fractions of a second into movies and drastically increased concession sales—is a complete myth (the lead researcher later admitted the data was fabricated). So, if that’s what led you to ask this question, rest assured that this pretty alarming study is totally bogus.

However, some more credible studies have shown subliminal advertising to be modestly successful. Those effects are mostly short-lived, though, and there’s no evidence to suggest that modern advertisers are using them in their ads. And even though it recognizes them as ineffective, the Federal Trade Commission does categorize subliminal messages as deceptive—and therefore illegal.

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Parker Van Doren
January 10, 2020 9:34PM
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Tahlia Schlatter
January 09, 2020 6:52PM
Only if you think it's working, I believe they are placebo's.
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Mr bond
January 07, 2020 8:57AM
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Mr bond
January 07, 2020 8:55AM
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