The following cases (53-65) are taken from the French Le Figaro Magazine dated May 22-23, 2015, (Cases 53-58) and Le Figaro Madame that goes with it (59-64). The last one (Case 65) appeared in Vogue, Italian edition, May 2015.
As an introduction to the present cases, I invite you to watch a comprehensive video made by Nathan Bell: The Great Subliminal Message Deception
…………….Case 53 Dior SEX
A sex embed on French actor Alain Delon when young. Click on the pictures to enlarge.
……………..Case 54 Google SEX
Google has designed an advertising campaign aimed at explaining that the company is supporting non-profit organizations. The present ad deals with a French organization whose purpose, as one reads, is to “teach the young good reflexes on the Web,” whatever that means. We are shown a picture where the responsible of that organization, “Thomas” (or rather, certainly, a model who represents him), meets some kids in a classroom.
The kids’ attention seems to focus on one of them, of whom the viewer only sees the back and who wears a salmon-colored jersey. He or she has blond hair. I can’t say for sure whether it’s a boy or a girl; neither the hairdo nor the clothing allows us to draw a four-square conclusion. This kid, boy or girl, points to something or someone that does not appear on the picture. The other kids look either at him/her, or at what or whom he/she is pointing to.
Thomas, on the other hand, the responsible of the Google-sponsored organization, looks at no particular place on the picture. He might be staring at some spot beyond the depicted scene, but he rather looks like someone who is watching nothing in particular. His smile is ecstatic; he just seems to be enjoying what’s going on, and enjoying it intensely.
Now, you may not have noticed it but the head of the boy/girl with the salmon jersey is between Thomas’s legs, at pelvis level. At this stage, ask yourself a question: Is this by accident? Some of you, perhaps most of you would not have noticed this incongruous, even improper perspective had I not pointed to it (in the same way that it took me some time to see it even though I was searching for tricks from the start). The conscious brain, automatically adjusting the overall picture according to perspective laws, overlooks the incongruity. However, on the subconscious level, the superimposition of the child’s head on the man’s genitals will have been recorded. The professional photographer, the art director of the advertising agency responsible for the ad, any person involved and having expertise in graphic techniques should have noticed that the perspective was not right, in fact they could not fail to notice it, and they would have modified it were their intention not to have it that way, but in fact they wanted your lizard brain to record a fellatio between a child and an adult, and they engineered the ad to that end.
…………….Case 55 Stihl SEX
Like in Case 54, another ecstatic man. The copy reads “Do not let nature overshadow you.” It advertises garden machinery and equipment such as hedge trimmers. The picture shows a shadowy garden (where Stihl equipments have not been used) and a man having the intention to make a barbecue. He has placed the grill on the one spot where daylight is available, and is intensely enjoying the rare particles of sunlight falling in his garden, as it seems. Why he should be delighted at all is an enigma, since the copy’s message is that the barbecue is doomed for failure as no one can enjoy an outdoor dinner in such gloom.
However, no matter the logic, showing an ecstatic man tends to make the mirror cells in your brain partake in the same feeling. And if you look inside the grill carefully you will find that the man is enjoying more than just rays of light. The ad has been designed to make your subconscious brain record a fellatio.
…………….Case 56 Domaine Clarence Dillon SEX
In this issue of Le Figaro Magazine there follows a few ads for wines, among several pages of articles (so-called informative content) on the wine business. Let’s begin with this masterpiece (tongue in cheek). The bottle of rosé is an unmistakable penis. The glans is clearly outlined and, true to anatomy, it is particularly sheeny: light reflections of the bottle glass are more numerous and glaring on this part. Furthermore, the graphic designer has succeeded in giving the straight bottle a somewhat curvy shape reminiscent of the penis’s curvature.
A scissors-like image gliding above the penis evokes castration fear. On the left side of the penis, at the glans’s level, is a dripping slit. This can either be a wound inflicted by the scissors, alluding to castration having been carried out, or a female vulva. On the right side is another slit, surrounded by swollen labia. I have also outlined a sex embed.
…………….Case 57 Le Clos Peyrassol SEX
Another wine advertisement. Among the bowl’s reflections, I have outlined a sex embed, a vagina slit that is at the same time a penis thanks to two ice cubes providing the testes, and, on the right hand side of the bowl, a fellatio being performed. The fingers of the fellatio performer (looking toward the right) are apparent, she (he?) has her hand clenched on something that she’s bringing to her mouth.
…………….Case 58 Duval Leroy SEX
This advertisement can be found in both Le Figaro Magazine and Le Figaro Madame. The bottle of champagne wine is surrounded by whitish flower petals. Faces have been drawn among the petals, kissing and licking the penis-like bottle. On the lower side, a grotesque face expresses wonder.
…………….Case 59 Dior Joaillerie SEX
When you open this issue of Le Figaro Madame, you find the present two-page advertisement for jewellery. The advertised jewels represent amethyst and pink quartz roses with gold and diamond bees. But there is more. First of all, I don’t know which gender is the target here, man or woman; probably both are intended, women who buy jewels for themselves and men who buy jewels as gifts. I tend to opine, however, that men make gifts according to their partner’s preferences, and so would buy a Dior jewel if the lady expressed some appreciation of the brand after being exposed to such ads.
The zoomed-on jewel of the left page has been embedded with weird figures and shapes as light reflections. On the lower side (pictures 59-2 & 59-3) a grotesque man’s face has been drawn with the tongue out and erected. The man is licking what looks like a bum. This could be a depiction of metaphoric bumlicking or a sexual act.
On the upper side (pictures 59-4 & 59-5) something awful is going on. I see a woman’s face, crimson-colored (in contrast to the amethyst-colored surrounding), in profile, oriented upwards. One eye, as well as nose and mouth are visible and distinct, however anamorphic the image. I have outlined the contour only, more like a circle around the face, because I couldn’t convey with the help of a computer mouse the expression of this anamorphized visage. This expression is suffering and it could be pleasure as well, the sort of pleasure perverts look for, as encapsulated in the words “it hurts so good.” And I figure the agent of this unbearable pleasure would be the dog-like monster whose eerie face stands just behind the woman’s and which features I have been able to outline (although in a comic-like fashion). The woman is being mounted by a dog! Awful, but consistent with W. B. Key’s findings in the seventies and eighties. Nothing has changed: Only the amount of exposure to advertising has increased 900-fold (for the figures see XXVI, text in French).
…………….Case 60 Céline SEX
Another sex embed for good measure. Some of those embeds are so conspicuous it becomes a pleasure. Click on the pictures to enlarge.
…………….Case 61 Chopard SEX
The lady is supposedly performing some sort of dance. What dance? The position of her hands reminds one of oriental dances (Siamese, Balinese) in which hands’ gestures are codified and have symbolic meanings. These oriental dances originated in sacred dances, especially ancient Hindu dances, performed by sacred prostitutes such as devadasi (slave girls of the gods).
Look carefully at the left hand. The index and middle fingers are disposed in the characteristic manner a woman spreads her genital labia, and the hand itself is more or less at genitals’ level. The ad hints, not very subtly either, at female exhibitionism and masturbation. As I explained on Case 47, this makes perfect sense, given the figures in Hite Report: 70 percent of women won’t experience orgasm if not by ways of masturbation. More conservative figures still make for one third of women being in that case. It’s pretty obvious that advertisers will be intent on trying to associate the products they advertise with sexual climax and thus to evoke the feelings felt during masturbation.
The woman on this ad is sternly dressed, rather like a man, so the creature here dancing is actually a hermaphrodite, which, again, speaks deeply to the onanistic woman’s psyche, because the hermaphrodite is complete per se, whereas gendered beings in order to achieve completeness must look for their other halves, according to the Platonic myth propounded in the Symposium.
…………….Case 62 Dinh Van SEX
The bracelet, attaching both wrists, makes manacles: Bondage. Moreover, the woman is performing a fellatio on a huge, flacid penis, like that of a horse. The left hand holds the glans, the right hand caresses the testes. All this is subliminal pornography. I haven’t drawn the penis because it would allow pornographers to strike my blog down claiming this is pornography… However I think I am making the point clear.
Also, please note that all such ads having not a single world of copy are said to be (including by the American Supreme Court) commercial information. This is how big companies inform us.
…………….Case 63 Lierac SEX
The red splash of lipstick behind the stick evokes female genitals. The lady is looking upward, smiling, presumably to a lover. We can see her left shoulder, but we do not see the arm, so the arm must be tied to her back. She is bound.
Tapping into deviant practices makes perfect sense, again, due to the figures given on Case 61. Women who don’t experience climax in their sexual life are bound to fantasizing a lot more than men, and are likely to be asking themselves if such or such practice would not bring about the fulfillment they long for.
From one of the numerous fashion pages that are a staple of ladies’ magazines, on this depiction, again, of female masturbation, the right hand’s middle finger is conspicuous and points toward the vagina. If you don’t see that it is masturbation that here is alluded to, there’s nothing I can say: you must be some sort of perverted mind…
…………….Case 65 Valentino Garavani SEX
Tapping into weird fantasms, masochism and fear of aggression, this ad depicts a woman’s body lying on the ground. The man has taken her handbag: it must be hers because it matches her boots. So, if I understand well, the man has beaten the girl down while snatching her handbag and she’s now lying on the pavement. The man’s tattoo somehow reinforces this interpretation. Just below the benevolent lion’s head, we can see a woman, on the left, behind which, a bit blurred, are drawn two hoodies with evil stares and angry faces, one clenching his fist.
If the ad is not telling an aggression story, please explain what is going on. You can give your opinion on each post of this blog. Please feel free to correct me and bring the right interpretation of this piece of information, which does not have a single word of copy besides the name of the brand and the name of the product.
At my grandparents’ house, hanging on the wall of the lavatory were a couple of Epinal printings, old images that peddlers used to sell as entertainment, as one would have some pleasant time looking for the hidden objects in them. These printings were quite popular, and some really tricky as riddles, even though the caption or legend told viewers in florid style what object to look for. Thus, family members and guests could enjoy at my grandparents’ house the riddles while in the lavatory.
This may account for my not being very much surprised, years later, as I read Wilson B. Key’s books on subliminal advertising, because the techniques he described reminded me that, in former times, artists from the small French town of Epinal, in the province of Lorraine, did just the same.
Only their goals were different. An innocent game then, it is now utilized to penetrate consumers’ psyches in order to manipulate their purchasing behavior.
In the following case studies, 47 to 52, from the April 2015 issue of the magazine Vogue (American edition), besides a few new cases of sex embeds, I presently extend the scope of the ‘Subliminal Advertising’ series by providing examples of hidden objects Epinal-wise (Cases 51 and 52).
Before, as you may have heard or read about Wilson Bryan Key in dismissing and disparaging terms, if you have ever read or heard of him at all, it will be useful to quote some respected scholars who ackowledge his contribution. The following lines are taken from the book Sex in Advertising, 2003, editor by Tom Reichert and Jacqueline Lambiase. W.B. Key authored a chapter in this book, which is certainly one of his last written contributions (he died in 2008). Interestingly, in the section ‘About the Contributors’, the editors have this to say about him: ‘He is currently CEO of Mediaprobe Inc., an international consulting and educational firm, and is writing a new book on media analysis.’ To my knowledge, the book here alluded to has never been published; it would be great if the manuscript, even if unfinished, could some day find its way to a publisher.
This book also includes original work by Wilson Key, one of the most prolific (and widely read) writers on the issue of sexual embeds in advertising and media [and, in fact, the one author who discovered and exposed the practice. FB]. Key’s writings … have sold millions and influenced not only a generation, but sparked considerable controversy as well. (p. x)
Possible proof of his influence is brought forth by several surveys. One, cited in Haberstroh 1994, a book aimed at discrediting Key’s findings, shows that 62 percent of Americans agree with the statement that advertisers utilize subliminal techniques – and the more educated one is, the likelier he is to agree. According to another survey, cited in Acland 2011 (Acland has read Haberstroh and, like Haberstroh, he finds Key’s ideas ‘kooky’), the figure reaches 81 percent, among which 44 percent believe it has some effect on purchasing behavior. All in all, however widespread Key’s influence might have been, academic and other research and writing on the matter remains strikingly shy, if not nonexistent if one look for books that support the idea and carry on with the work on that direction.
Although sex in advertising is a controversial topic in and of itself, nothing in this area raises more debate than the supposed use of sexual embeds. Often referred to as subliminal advertising, sexual embeds are defined as referents or forms of sexual representation designed to be perceived subconsciously. Common types of embeds include: the word sex; objects that are shaped or positioned like genitalia and sexual acts; and small, hidden images of naked people, body parts, and genitalia. Sexual embeds are integrated into images by ad creators and are intended to go undetected by those viewing the ad. … Controversy pertains to the existence and supposed effects of sexual embeds. (p.25)
Have you heard of the controversy? If yes, was it recently? Do you think the issue is being duly debatted in the public sphere? Do you know of public personalities expressing themselves on the issue?
As embeds trigger unconscious recognition, they stimulate sexual arousal and motivation. Ultimately, observers are motivated toward goal-directed behavior (e.g. movement toward the stimulus). When embeds are consciously detected their power diminishes because viewers’s defense mechanisms are stimulated. (p.27)
Many researchers and advertising professionals consider embeds to be a hoax because controlled research has not substantiated their effects, and they doubt that media professionals intentionally use embeds. … At this point, interested readers are encouraged to review work in sexual embed research to reach their own conclusions. (p.27)
May the present series contribute to interested readers’ reaching their conclusions, knowing extra-lab research on sexual embedding in actual media advertisements is scarce.
……………Case 47 Ralph Lauren SEX
The word sex has been embedded on the crocodile skin-looking material of the lady’s sandal. The color patterns of said material are frankly irregular, hinting at real animal skin. The S and E show up as black marks, whereas the X appears in a white rhombus next to E. The rhombus is made of four of the units that seem to constitute the hide’s scaly texture: these four units’ intersection in the white rhombus makes an X. If you’re not satisfied with this X, maybe you will agree, then, that the next white stain on the right, a bigger one, shows an X-like shape.
As I told you this time I would look for more than mere word embeds, I would like to call your attention to the lady’s left hand. The middle and third fingers are touching a button from the trousers or shirt (it’s not very clear), a button that seems to be the only one of its kind in this particular place. When one remembers that the word ‘button’, in English as well as other European languages such as French (bouton), can designate the clitoris, one is led to infer that the image is meant to be subconsciously perceived, and felt, as a scene of masturbation.
Alluring women via female onanism makes perfect sense in a context where, according to the Hite Report on Female Sexuality, 70 percent of women will never experience orgasm if not by means of masturbation. Of course, the relevant question here is not so much whether said report gives an accurate picture of the reality as whether advertisers tend to opine it does.
…………….Case 48 Estée Lauder SEX
On this one, I have outlined a banal hairline sex embed on the blonde lady’s head. More can be found on both ladies.
This advertisement, however, triggered my interest for another reason. You can’t see the blonde lady’s hand, so you won’t easily admit she’s grasping the brunette’s buttocks. In fact, her hands may lie slightly below the buttocks, but very close to them, just far enough to defuse any eagerness at indignation. The idea remains the same: Between these two women goes some special intimacy that includes erotic body contact. Unless, of course, the brunette is standing between parallel bars or is a legless cripple who has been carried up on an armchair, on which arms the blonde’s hands are resting, but I think we can safely discard such interpretations although we’d rather advertisers didn’t tap our sex drives with so much compulsion.
…………….Case 49 Gucci SEX
Another sex embed on sandals. The sandals’ reptile skin material, by the way, color and all, is the same as in Case 47 above. It shows that, intriguingly, Gucci (Kering group) and Ralph Lauren have the same sorts of ideas about shoes at the same time.
…………….Case 50 Burberry SEX
We have already seen in this series two ads from the same Burberry campaign, involving models Naomi Campbell and Jourdan Dunn Star (Cases 17 and 26). However, contrary to both previous ones, on this ad we can see their uncovered legs. What will we see next? This campaign is a million-dollar striptease.
(The advertisers responsible for this campain might expostulate that they have not launched the different ads in such striptease arrangement, but all more or less together. If this is true, it still allows that a consequent number of people will be exposed to the campaign in the same sequence as has been the case for me.)
…………….Case 51 Calvin Klein SEX
Now we arrive at Epinal, Lorraine. For Calvin Klein Jeans, the pop singer Justin Bieber is exhibiting his abdominal muscles. In the business jargon we call that a beefcake image: an athletic, scantily clad man. He seems to be admiring his abdominals. Is he? Are you? I guess the huge penis embedded on his abdomen will not leave you indifferent either; you might even dream about it afterwards (Poetzl effect), unless, maybe, I show it to you. (The exact same kind of embed is described in Wilson Key’s book The Age of Manipulation.)
……………..Case 52 Cadillac CHILD PORN
Now we go where Epinal artists of old would never have dreamt of. In that New Epinal, there is no limit to the wildest fantasies.
This is an advertisement for Cadillac, a General Motors marque. It extends on six pages, three times two, of which I bring forth nb 1 & 2 (picture with legend Case 52) and 5 & 6 (picture with legend 52-4). (Pages 3 & 4 are just bla bla that no one reads: it isn’t even technical information, but pseudo-philosophy in aphorisms: “It is not the critic who counts” etc. This sentence, the first one in the bla bla, intended at most to be read cursorily, perceived but not processed, could actually be construed to effect a subliminal injunction to relinquish critical thinking).
The two pictures distinguish themselves from all other ads on this Vogue issue by their realistic depiction of our urban world and life. Instead of garish, gay dresses, people wear dark, dull clothes, their faces are worn and concerned. It should serve as a reminder, by the way: Why do you buy bright dresses when you know you cannot put them on because you would be regarded like an alien from Mars, would make yourself too conspicuous and thus the target of mean comments? Anyway, this is the real word, from which Cadillac owners withdraw.
To make it a bit more nightmarish, the graphic designer has embedded hidden objects in the pictures. Remember one thing: Most people are taking pains to avoid looking at advertisements, so advertisers must find a way to attract people’s attention in spite of their reluctance and avoidance. One way to do it is to wave hello to the reptilian brain (limbic system), that part of the brain that is permanently scanning its environment, having done the same ever since it has been the survival tool of an ancient primate lurking in primeval wilderness in quest for food and fearing deadly attacks. The reptilian brain will perceive the embeds without your knowing it. Once perceived by the limbic system and thus stored inside the implicit memory system, hidden embeds can tell their little stories undisturbed to our drives and motivations. Expectations with respect to ads, as vapid and insignificant material, in a word as noise (which they are), will contribute to prevent perceptions of embeds from accessing consciousness. So you won’t see the ghoulish faces and zoomorphic demons embedded by mercenary artists in the thousands of commercial messages you are exposed to on a daily basis.
On picture 52-3, I have outlined a few SEXes, but also an eerie face staring at you from a waft of fog, and an awe-inspiring cowlike, bosomy goddess blowing smoke from her nostrils. My outlining is not adequately conveying the actual eeriness of the former face and stare, I find, but my drawing skills haven’t been much exercised as of late.
With respect to picture 52-6, I must ask you to be prepared to anything. The sex embed on the greyish air is nothing. On the left-hand side, between the two realistic-looking, middle-class, dark-clad wretches on foot, one sees a pole, maybe a street lamp. It is given a prominent position in the picture. Not only that, it also displays a large number of confused, black and white forms. These are the forms to which I would like to draw your attention, because it is there the graphic designer has embedded a variety of meaningful images.
At the bottom, two faces are smooching, a man on the left, a woman on the right. The woman has long hair. The man is middle-aged at least, given the baldness on the top of his head.
From the bottom go directly to the top. There I have outlined two ghostly faces. The face on the left is a skull. That on its right is some demonlike fiend.
Below these haunting faces, something very nasty is going on. A young girl is forced to perform a fellatio. The physiognomy of the face, as well as its dimension compared to the penis, indicate a child, unmistakably. This is subliminal child pornography!
Should be enough for the present. Some of you will react like: ‘You want to make us see what you yourself are projecting on the picture, but I won’t.’ To those ones I would like to remind Epinal printings: You won’t see the hidden object in the printing unless you look for it. But it is there. Someone has put it there, not my or your imagination. The trick has been known for a long time.