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Subliminal advertising - the secret seduction?

A Russian broadcaster was shut down for subliminal advertising

Russia is concerned not only with its sunken submarine, but also with advertising. Not because of the advertising in general, but because of an offensive tactic. Neither is pornographic involved, not even a form of political censorship, as one might assume, but a broadcaster allegedly broadcast subliminal advertising for two weeks in June of this year and was therefore apparently withdrawn from circulation for the time being.

The transmitter is located in Yekaterinburg and is called Avtorskiye Televisionniye Novosti, or ATN for short. And this broadcaster somewhere in far-away Siberia flashed the message from time to time: "Sit down and just watch ATN" or whatever the slogan may have been in Russian. Even if the unconscious, at which the rapidly flashing advertising is aimed, would get upset in the face of such clumsiness, the minister responsible for the media, Mikhail Seslavinsky, could not hold back and, as the Moscow Times reported on August 19, closed the station. Subliminal means that something is only presented so briefly that it cannot be consciously perceived, but possibly, as the ministry apparently thinks, is registered by the unconscious and unfolds its effect there.

"Nobody has ever been that bold," said the minister in an interview. "The use of hidden messages that affect the unconscious is forbidden under two different laws - Article 4 of the Mass Media Act and Article 10 of the Advertising Act." The broadcaster countered, however, that it was not at all a subliminal advertisement. It only flashed for a short time, but one could definitely perceive it consciously.

The Subliminal Domain

This is the only message you will actually see.

The heyday of subliminal advertising was when consumer society had reached its first heights and television began its triumphal march. The cold war together with the nuclear armament caused permanent fears, the UFOs had already entered the consciousness of the people and the rock'n'roll began to fascinate the people.

However, the subliminal advertising made its first appearance in the cinema. In 1957, a hitherto not very well-known market researcher who was engaged in "motivational research" and had examined the blink rate of women's eyes in shops - allegedly an indicator of interest in certain products or forms of presentation - announced that he had in In a six-week experiment in a New York cinema, the advertising texts "Eat Popcorn" and "Drink Cola" were faded in every 5 seconds so quickly that the audience would have deliberately not noticed. At the same time, sales of popcorn in the cinema increased by 58 percent and cola by 18 percent. Even if Vicary wanted to give his subliminal projection machine or his company Subliminal Projection Co. a push and you don't know whether this experiment really took place, it almost triggered a mass hysteria that spread to the Senate and Congress . Vicary and his subliminal advertising did become known, even if he himself described it only as a weak method and suggested that one should announce to viewers in advance that one would advertise in this way.

Of course they wanted to try this form of advertising, but for example, after a wave of protests from viewers, a Californian broadcaster decided to stay on. Out of concern, the National Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters urged its 300 members in 1957 to refrain from subliminal advertising because this could alienate customers. A Canadian broadcaster broadcast the subliminal request "Call now" during a half-hour show, but only one of 500 respondents said that he wanted to pick up the phone, most of them said they were thirsty or hungry. Nevertheless, politicians wanted to ban subliminal messages altogether, partly because they could also carry political propaganda and thus establish a totalitarian regime. However, there was no explicit ban at the time, although the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) forbids subliminal advertising as a deliberate attempt to deceive viewers.

The CIA was also infected and dealt with the topic, which a released report entitled: "The Operational Potential of Subliminal Perception" from 1958 shows. You just wanted to make sure not to miss anything, even if, according to the report, influencing subliminal perception - regrettably? - promised no effect: "It must be concluded that there are so many elusive variables and so many sources of irregularity in the device of directing subliminal messages to a target individual that its operational feasibility is exceedingly limited." That fits very well with the "Studies in Intelligence" of the time, in which the American secret service experimented with pretty much all kinds of techniques for influencing the mind and behavior of LSD to the point of deprivation.

Even if most scientists do not believe in the effectiveness of subliminal advertising and have not been able to confirm it, the subject of the "secret seducers," according to a 1957 bestseller by Vance Packard, continued to haunt people's minds. In 1973, for example, Wilson Bryan Key rekindled the debate with his book "Subliminal Seduction". Above all, this enlightener discovered the subliminal messages everywhere and saw the majority of the American population already subliminally controlled. In advertising, especially the words related to having sex are mostly hidden in advertising. It even went so far for him that he discovered the letters of the word sex in Biscuit von Ritz.

In the mid-1980s, however, the discussion broke out again in a new area, namely that of rock music. It was feared that messages played backwards into the music (backmasking), for example related to drugs, satanic cults or sexual content, primarily influence and seduce young people. There were also trials and even legislative proposals, although empirical psychology could not provide any evidence of this. The height of the excitement was the 1990 trial in Nevada against the British music group "Judas Priest", which was accused of having played back messages with satanic content - including "Do it" - in causing two young people to attempt suicide. The charges were dismissed due to a lack of scientific evidence.

But then the scene shifted to Russia, because after the re-election of Boris Yeltsin in 1996, the rumor arose that the TV channel ORT had broadcast subliminal messages in favor of Yeltsin on the evening before the election.

And now the TV station ATN. According to investigations by employees of the responsible press ministry, strange flashes of lightning frequently appear in commercials containing ATN, including the offending message, which appeared briefly every 25 images. ATN was ordered to pay $ 450 by the regional advertising agency, which ATN took to court and appealed. A decision has not yet been made. (Florian Rötzer)

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