Subliminal Programming

Here’s a beer ad to exhibit the phenomenon, two guys are camping in the woods.  They are hanging out, having a good time.  The one guy pops the top on the can of beer and out the woods, out of no where; two beautiful young women come walking up in cut off jean shorts. Now the reality of this happening is (in reality) zero.  It is a fantasy.  It takes more than a beer to get a desirable woman interested in you. This is subliminal programming at its most blatant and most sophisticated form. Close and loving relationships, bonding with your friends and buddies, great sex, having attractive girlfriends and boyfriends, glamorous lifestyle, good health, rugged outdoor life, sports and athletics, cool cars – you name it – if it is something desirable in life – something that we all want for ourselves – then it has been tied to a beer/bike commercial, it has been tied to beer.  The liquor industry spends well over a billion dollars a year to rope in young viewers. 

 Eat Sugar Now

Over the week a consumer is exposed to as high as 2000 brands while watching TV. Marketing strongly influences children’s food preferences, requests, and consumption. At least 30 percent of the calories in the average child’s diet derive from sweets, soft drinks, salty snacks, and fast food. Soft drinks account for more than 10 percent of the caloric intake, representing a doubling since 1980. At least 30 percent of the calories in the average child’s diet derive from sweets, soft drinks, salty snacks, and fast food. Soft drinks account for more than 10 percent of the caloric intake, representing a doubling since 1980. With Mc Donald’s opening in all major cities in India, chances seem a little bleak. The families ought to take some stern decisions back at home to infuse healthy eating choices. 

False Hope

 During the 2000 Super Bowl, millions of people saw the following commercial for Christopher Reeve walking again. Some of us saw an uplifting message of hope. Some saw a cynical company manipulating people’s hope to make a buck. Still others – many of them with disabilities – saw an ad that gave false hope. Is it justified to sell an aspiration and add to the misery? The message must not be myopic, it ought to be generic. 


False advertising is the use of deliberately false statements or deception in advertising, in order to gain a commercial advantage. As advertising has the potential to persuade people into commercial transactions that they might otherwise avoid, many governments around the world use regulations to control false, deceptive or misleading advertising.

1.      Bait and Switch- Bait and switch advertising is the offering of certain products or services at bargain prices with no intention of selling them as advertised. The real purpose of the bait and switch scheme is to lure consumers into a business establishment with attractive offers and then sell them other more expensive products.To accomplish this, the sellers disparage the quality of the advertised “specials” or belittle the value-added services related to the product offered (eg. Guarantees). In some cases, the advertised products will not be even available for sale and in extreme cases, the salesperson is penalized for selling the advertised product.An example would be an ad for a brand new computer with P3 1.2 Gig processor, 256 megs of Ram, 60 Gig hard drive, DVD, cd-writer and free software for only $599.95. What a bargain! As soon as you inquire: “I’m sorry, we’re all sold out of that amazing deal, but since you need a computer, I can show you this one. It only has half as much processing power, ram or hard drive, but that sale item was probably too big for you anyway. It’s a steal at just $600. If you need the DVD, I can have one installed for only $99…” and off you go being sold an item that you didn’t initially want.

2.      False Price Comparison- This is one of the most common forms of false advertising where the advertiser compares a sale price to a “regular” price. The regular price in such cases is usually falsely inflated in order to deceive the customers in thinking that they are getting a bargain. This is a commonly found practice in the retail market.

3.      Going Out of Business Sales- Advertisers usually of retail segment may announce sales of their products on account of closing of business to deceive the customers to think that they are buying at considerable savings. Such false sales are advertised as: “bankruptcy sales,” “lost our lease,” building coming down,” “forced out of business,” “final days,” “liquidation sales,” “fire sales,” “quitting business,” or similar names. In such cases, businesses must first obtain a permit from the sheriff or the city in which the business is located, and the permit must be prominently displayed near the entrance to the premises.

4.      Buy One Get One Free- This advertising aims at selling two products for the price of one. In many cases, when this offer is made in an advertisement, the price of the product one pays for is inflated to cover the cost of the “free” product. In other cases, the “free” product is of low quality. 

5.      Misrepresentations-  Advertisers often intentionally misrepresent the characteristics, origin, uses, benefits, or qualities of products offered for sale. Used cars are advertised as “one owner” cars when they have had several owners; “late model” TV sets turn out to be 10 years old; watches are advertised as “railroad watches” when they are in fact ordinary watches of relatively low quality; “Maine lobsters” may actually have been fished from the waters of the Pacific Ocean; and medicinal preparations which are supposed to cure specific illnesses may have little or no therapeutic effectiveness.

Tobacco Advertising 

The space in which tobacco can be promoted in any form is growing more restricted every day.  Ad agencies and individual advertising people make their own decisions about categories like tobacco and guns. Many say, “No, thanks” to working on certain businesses. But would you turn down the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese assignment because another division of the same corporation makes Marlboros? That’s a tougher question.   


There are hundreds of beer commercials on the air, but not one of them shows somebody actually drinking the beer. Does that make them more ethical?The ethical issue isn’t the alcohol in the product, it’s the brand name on the bottle (Smirnoff Ice). When I say the word “Smirnoff”, what do you think of? – Vodka?. A rival company says this commercial is misleading you because there’s no vodka in Smirnoff Ice. It’s a malt beverage. Does the name “Smirnoff” mean “vodka” or is it just a name? Many of you are in the target audience. Are you being fooled here? And if you thought Smirnoff Ice contained vodka, did you also think it contained ice? Most alcohol companies use surrogate advertisements in form of soda or packaged drinking water. The message is conveyed in a speed that there is a gap between Mc Dowell’s Premium and Soda. The message is clear; celebrate life with Mc Dowell’s. Similarly in this league is another ad of “Green Label- Mera Number 1”, where an engineer celebrates a success.   


These are not unfamiliar to you. Should they be advertised? Most networks won’t accept condom ads because they might offend certain audiences. Even where condom ads are okay, there are ethical choices to make about what kind of product demonstration is appropriate. And in what context? One example of context is that people in condom ads usually be at least engaged. Because even though the biggest market probably lies outside the Marital Bed, the truth about where all those condoms are really going raises some touchy issues. If you were the Creative Director on the Trojans account, is that an ethical issue? Do you show the real truth and take the consequences? How can we forget the KamaSutra ad featuring Milind Soman and Madhu Sapre? It created a bundle of controversies.

Pharmaceutical advertising

Advertising puts more information in people’s hands. Studies show that drug ads raise awareness of some conditions so more people seek treatment. And they know more about their options before seeing the doctor. That’s good, right?But of course the drug companies don’t advertise their cheapest products. They promote the big moneymakers. There’s more information out there, but it comes with a heavy dose of Point-of-View. Sometimes there are two points of view in the same commercial. The FDA requires that, if you promote the benefits of your medicine, you must also reveal any significant risks or side effects.

Product placement

In a movie chase scene, the hero and the bad guy are going to need some kind of car to drive. In the theatre we have no way of knowing whether the director chose those cars because they fulfilled his artistic vision – or because the car manufacturer made a deal with the producer. The car people get exciting exposure for their brand and she saves a nice piece of change on her production budget. Audiences like realism in movies.This kind of “product placement” happens in real life, too. If you go out to a club tonight, you might see some particularly good-looking young people using a new kind of cell phone. It lets them shoot pictures of people to their friends across the room: “Here’s a cute guy – want to come and meet him?” Fun stuff like that. If you’re curious, maybe they’ve taken your picture and they’ll be happy to show you the phone and let you try it. The phone is very cool. And the people are what advertisers call “aspirational” because they’re way cooler than you are. They’re people you want to be. They’re also actors and this is a gig for them. Their job is creating the impression that using this phone is The Next Trend. If you ask them directly if they are actors, they won’t lie. But if you don’t ask, they won’t tell.


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