Subliminal advertising -- placing fleeting or hidden images in commercial content in the hopes that viewers will process them unconsciously -- doesn't work. Recent research suggests that consumers do sometimes respond non-consciously to cues they aren't consciously aware are there. Subliminal exposure to the Apple brand seems to make people more "creative" than if they are exposed to the IBM brand, for instance.
- The 13 Best Protest Signs Seen at Occupy Wall Street
- All your financial questions answered in two pages each
- What Recession? 10 Sumptuous New Ads Show Madison Avenue Is in a Golden Age
But extremely brief stimuli that consumers are unaware they're looking at is still unlikely to give them the urge to go shopping. You're probably not feeling the urge to buy a bottle of Absolut right now, even though the joke in the ad above is that the words "Absolut Vodka" are hidden in the ice cubes (click to enlarge).
Nonetheless, people remain fascinated by allegedly subliminal messages in ads -- even though if something is truly subliminal you shouldn't be able to identify it, by definition. Most "subliminal" ads are happy accidents, or people seeing what they want to see. But some appear to be deliberate, or at least too good to be true.
Here are 10 of the best subliminal ads of all time
1. The Camel logo
An oldie but a goodie: Who hasn't spent time searching the Camel logo for the image of a naked man with his "cigarette" hanging out?
2. SFX Magazine
SFX magazine courted notoriety when it altered the typeface of its logo for its Jennifer Garner issue in such a way that the moniker appeared to spell out something else entirely.
3. Swensen's ice cream
This looks deliberate.
4. DJ Flooring
One of the oldest and most noted examples, the ad's other message becomes obvious when the image is inverted. Seems too good to be true? Wrong. It's a real Yellow Pages ad.
5. George W. Bush -- "Rats"
Candidate Bush was trying to make a point about candidate Al Gore's healthcare proposals in the 2000 election campaign, but all anyone remembers is the kerfuffle over whether the brief appearance of the word "rats" in the middle of the ad was intended or not.
6. Coke's naked ice lady
For years people have claimed the ice on top of the can forms the silhouette of a nude. I don't buy it.
7. Gilbey's Gin
Many people think that the appearance of the word "sex" in the Gilbey's ice cubes is deliberate. But think about this: How does that help Gilbey's sell cocktails?
8. Seychelles' 50 Rupee Note
What does this island treasury hope tourists will associate with its balmy climate? The answer can be read in the palm trees behind Queen Elizabeth II's shoulders.
9. Pirates of the Caribbean
If this was deliberate, it's a work of genius. But why bother?
10. The Rescuers
Many Disney movies contain images that could -- if you squint your eyes -- contain salacious images, but 1977's The Rescuers did indeed contain two pornographic images. As Bianca and Bernard fly through the city, two photos of topless women can be seen in the windows behind them when freeze-framed. Disney didn't notice the sabotage until 1999, and recalled 3.4 million VHS copies of the film.