When I was in high school, I had a friend who was doing a project on subliminal messages. Of course I had no idea what he was talking about.
So he explained in small words so that I could understand. It went something like this: "A subliminal message is something embedded in something else that is not recognized by your conscious mind. Like in an advertisement."
He then showed me a page torn from a magazine. On the page was a woman in a conservative dress. She was attractive, and somewhat sexy. I don't recall what the ad was for.
My friend asked me multiple questions about what I saw in the ad. I don't recall most of these either. I do, however, remember one quite well:
"Why do you think the woman in the ad is sexy?"
I recall studying the page and not really being able to come up with an answer.
It was then that he lifted the page up to a lamp, exposing that it had been double-printed. The woman was naked beneath the clothing. This image was not on the flip side of the page; it was indeed printed beneath the woman's clothing.
That was my first exposure to subliminal advertising, and became something of a milestone in my life. It taught me that advertisers will do anything to sell a product.
I think it important to build on the rudimentary definition of the term that I gave above. Wikipedia has quite a detailed description:
"A subliminal message is a signal or message embedded in another medium, designed to pass below the normal limits of the human mind's perception. These messages are unrecognizable by the conscious mind, but in certain situations can affect the subconscious mind and can negatively or positively influence subsequent later thoughts, behaviors, actions, attitudes, belief systems and value systems. The term subliminal means "beneath a limen" (sensory threshold). This is from the Latin words sub, meaning under, and limen, meaning threshold."
Keeping that in mind, I'm going to show you a few (a very few) examples of what marketing geniuses are throwing at our noggins-without us even knowing.
And not surprisingly, some (not all) of these are sexual in nature...
Subliminal Ad #1: Walt Disney and the Pirates of the Caribbean
Really obvious when you see it, eh? And definitely on purpose in terms of a cross-marketing ad campaign.
Subliminal Ad #2: Kentucky Fried Chicken
I LOVE this. Quite creative. Also quite subliminal. But this person caught it.
Subliminal Ad #3: Kent
Wow, she looks like she's enjoyin' that smoke, eh? Wouldn't it be nice to have a soothing cigarette right now? Well all know cigarettes make us sexy...
And that's why.