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Manipulative ads

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posted on Nov, 24 2004 @ 07:51 AM
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I'm writing my university bacherlor's thesis on the subject of manipulativa (subliminal, etc) advertising, is it considered to be a problem and how it is tackled. The thesis focuses more on Ad Agencies locally (Estonia).

Now, I'm asking for some help here.

My initial task is to find out if there is any way of measuring (a matrix) if an ad is manipulative and how maniputlative it is. I'm sure that someone has already come up with something like that and it would be a waste of time reinventing the wheel here.

The aim is to go thought the materials that the local advertising agencies have released, see whether they are indeed manipulative and then confront the agenices themselves to get their point of view on the subject, whether have used is (incentive to answer correctly supported by their own ads). Any suggestions regarding a questionnaire for agencies are also welcome.


I would be eternally grateful if anyone could provide me some information on the matter!

Kristian Saks




posted on Nov, 24 2004 @ 08:10 AM
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You could 'google' a bit on the subject, I'm sure they're organisations that examine adverts for stuff like that.

Perhaps ScepticOverlord could give you some information or tips, he works in the advertising business.



posted on Nov, 24 2004 @ 08:35 AM
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Googling will give you a fair amount of information, but you should also check your university libraries. I'm not sure how sophistocated your electronic resouces are, but here in the US most have a pretty good access.

If your access isn't that good, there are a few sources to try:

scholar.google.com... - the new beta version of a quick scholars' search engine. Excellent searching of available scholarly papers online and of many scholarly research paper databases.

www.scirus.com... - science research papers

Finally, there are probably some cultural issues to be addressed as well as some linguistic issues.

Ah! Had a thought for you -- look up "propaganda." See if you can come up with a set of rules for when something is an ad and when it's propaganda.



posted on Nov, 24 2004 @ 09:12 AM
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I'm an art director working in the advertising industry, so I do have quite a bit practical insight in this. Do feel free to ask me anything about this and I'll answer as best I can.


Anyway, here is my take on this. There are ways to sort of push people in a certain direction. This is mainly done through the use of knowledge about the consumer being addressed and educated "guessing" about what he/she likes or don't like, his/her habits, whether he/she is a follower/leader etc, etc. I guess this could be mistaken as subliminal, but it is in fact quite the opposite. Though the result of this may not look or feel like regular advertising, this kind of communication fits in the high-perception area.

Subliminal is something your consious does not perceive. Behavioural studies have shown the effect of zero perception-communication results in zero response. This type of subliminal communication would be the kind that was experimented on in the 50s.


The findings from controlled studies indicate that subliminal perception, when it occurs, reflects a person's usual interpretations of stimuli. Furthermore, there is no evidence to suggest that people initiate actions on the basis of subliminal perception. The weight of the evidence indicates that people must be aware of perceiving stimuli before they initiate actions or change their habitual reactions to these stimuli. Thus, although subliminal perception may allow us to make accurate guesses regarding the characteristics of stimuli, subliminal perception cannot lead a person to drink Coca-Cola or to eat Ritz Crackers, and it cannot be used effectively to improve a person's tennis skills or to cure a person's bad habits.

Merikle, P. M., & Daneman, M. (1998). Psychological investigations of unconscious perception. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 5, 5-18.


It was James Vicary who coined the term "subliminal advertising." Vicary had conducted a variety of unusual studies of female shopping habits, discovering (among other things) that women's eye-blink rates dropped significantly in supermarkets, that "psychological spring" lasts more than twice as long as "psychological winter," and that "the experience of a woman baking a cake could be likened to a woman giving birth." Vicary's studies were largely forgettable, save for one experiment he conducted at a Ft. Lee, New Jersey movie theater during the summer of 1957. Vicary placed a tachistoscope in the theater's projection booth, and all throughout the playing of the film Picnic, he flashed a couple of different messages on the screen every five seconds. The messages each displayed for only 1/3000th of a second at a time, far below the viewers' threshold of conscious perceptibility. The result of displaying these imperceptible suggestions -- "Drink Coca-Cola" and "Hungry? Eat Popcorn" -- was an amazing 18.1% increase in Coca-Cola sales, and a whopping 57.8% jump in popcorn purchases. Thus was demonstrated the awesome power of "subliminal advertising" to coerce unwary buyers into making purchases they would not otherwise have considered.

Or so goes the legend that has retained its potency for more than forty years. So potent a legend, in fact, that the Federal Communications Commission banned "subliminal advertising" from radio and television airwaves in 1974, despite that fact that no studies have ever shown it to be effective, and even though its alleged efficacy was based on a fraud.

Vicary lied about the results of his experiment. When he was challenged to repeat the test by the president of the Psychological Corporation, Dr. Henry Link, Vicary's duplication of his original experiment produced no significant increase in popcorn or Coca-Cola sales. Eventually Vicary confessed that he had falsified the data from his first experiments, and some critics have since expressed doubts that he actually conducted his infamous Ft. Lee experiment at all."

Source: Rogers, Stuart. "How a Publicity Blitz Created the Myth of Subliminal Advertising."


Here is an article with comments by Bob Garfield, an inustry critic for Advertising Age magazine.



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