5 May 2009 UPDATE:
This post is one of the most visited on this website, primarily by people using search engines to comb the ‘net using the phrase “subliminal advertising.” If this statement applies to you, please feel free to leave a comment below telling me what propelled you into this search (a class assignment, etc.). I am curious. Thanks!
Now, on to our regularly-scheduled post:
St. Vincent’s Bruno Cancer Center billboard
downtown Birmingham, Alabama, west of I-31
On 31 December 2007, I wrote:
This billboard is an example of brilliant subliminal advertising. Anybody out there willing to put yourself on the line and lay out what you think is at work here? I have my ideas…but I’ll wait to see if anyone is game to play first.
Talk to you soon.
And ABE – putting it all on the line – responded:
Maybe they are hoping you’ll want to meet the pretty lady?
Well, ABE, you’re on the right track – the pretty lady is the “gatekeeper.”
I had been driving by this billboard on my way to work almost daily for the past month, before its method seemed to !POP! in my head. You see, I had noticed the apparently unclad woman, the St. Vincent’s logo, and the word cancer, and assumed that the billboard was promoting the hospital’s breast cancer center. Very recently, I realized that there was nothing on the billboard that indicated a focus on breast cancer at all! Instead, there was the tag line (“Where Hope and Medicine Meet”) in type two times the size of the product line (“St. Vincent’s Bruno Cancer Center”). No specific mention of breast cancer anywhere. However…
In the tag line, the words Hope and Medicine are emphasized in boldface type, and stand out from the other words. Anyone driving by and glancing quickly would most likely notice the woman’s photograph and those two words first. Then, subliminally, they might make the following association, as I did –
Hope -> chest
Medicine -> chest
– reasonably leading to the assumption that this is an ad having something to do with cancer of the chest, er, breast. They needn’t read any of the other fine print to come to that conclusion.
I love ads like this – to me, it is like a puzzle being offered by the ad agency to see if I can figure out their thought process while they were creating the ad. That is, if they were conscious of what they were doing. I would bet that they were. And, yes, I watched Mad Men – some episodes twice.