Subliminal Stimuli in Advertisements

Subliminal messages are there to do what they do best: influence people. They are often incorporated into ads to influence people to buy products.


An important aspect in companies or businesses is to advertise what they sell or what they offer in order to make money. Businesses use advertisements to attract customers. Therefore, it is no surprise that there are subliminal advertisements; subliminally embedding something that attracts an individual.
Companies can embed messages into their advertisements in a large variety of ways.

One of the most used methods is quickly flashing an image onto a screen. A famous incident is when movie goers were flashed phrases urging them to eat popcorn, and buy cola while they watched a movie in a theater.
This is done with a machine called a tachistoscope which can flash frames and images lasting 1/3000th of a second at five second intervals.


Another example of how a tachistoscope is used was during world war two,this device flashed pictures to help train soldiers recognize enemy planes.

Words can also be subliminally embedded into images; a common example is of the word sex which you can see in all kinds of advertisements. Images can be embedded within images as well, although it is usually sexually explicit.

Just a beach scene?
What do the spaces spell?

Think you are immune to subliminal advertising?
Here is a video that shows just how subliminal messages act on our unconscious throughout the day
Advertising experiment by Derren Brown
You'll be amazed!

Below is a second video with popular subliminal advertisements. How many hidden messages do you see?

Subliminal messaging is also largely part of the movie industry. Although the effects of it are still being determined there are many claims and examples within movies we can reference. A prime example is within Disney movies but we will begin with Gladiator and Fight Club.

Fight club a movie released in 1999 about a salesman and an insomniac who combine to start an underground fighting club to allow men to channel their aggression as a form of therapy. A scene of the movie is ironically about subliminal messaging; where the character Tyler Durden, a projectionist, is putting frames of a penis on screen. Also, it is claimed that you can see Tyler for one frame about three times prior to him being introduced to the audience (n.a., February 2009)

Gladiator (released in 2000) is about a Roman general who is betrayed with the murder of his family and seeks revenge. We see subliminal messaging in the movie when the character Maximus gets taken away to be killed and the word “kennedy” flashes across the screen. This also occurs when he gets stabbed by Commodus (n.a., February 2009)

Moving on to Disney there are a million and one examples and accusations of subliminal messaging, we will take a look at a few different claims:

1- In Lion king, when Simba lies down at the edge of the cliff the plume of dust that rises spells SEX


2- The Little Mermaid, the priest’s knee looks as like an erection and the tower has the structure of a penis


3- The Rescuers, when flying through the city a topless woman can be seen in the window


4- Roger Rabbit, when Jessica Rabbit is jumping out of the taxi, a shot of a nude woman with spread legs is seen


5- Aladdin, when Aladdin is on the balcony waiting for Jasmine and dealing with the tiger he says “good kitty, down boy” then follows with “good teenagers take off your clothes”

6- Pocahontas, seen in several scenes (refer to video to see all examples)

All the above examples were retrieved from, Disney Subliminal Messages.

In 1957 at a theater in New Jersey James Vicary flashed “drink coca- cola” and “hungry- eat popcorn” on the screen which allegedly increased popcorn sales by approximately 58% and coke sales by 18% (as mentioned in the advertisement link). This has been proven to be a hoax but yet many believe in the legend (Carroll, 2009)