This will be the last post I make on subliminal adverts taken from no more than fifteen papers and magazines dated March, April, or May 2015, fifteen items that will have provided the material for issues I-XI of my Subliminal Advertising (now Subliminal Junk) series. The number of cases will amount to 87. Although a few cases are taken from the same advert (one or several sex embeds shown first, then some embedded subliminal drawings in a second time), this will give you an idea of how generalized the subliminal phenomenon is in print advertising. To be sure, 87 cases from 15 issues makes more than 5 cases of subliminal advertising per issue, and as I have already said I could easily take more cases from these issues if I decided to present indiscriminately all the subliminals I found, which I did not want to do, in order not to overload my blog. Some early cases I would even fain withdraw now, because they are not so exemplary and interesting as others, as they date back from the beginnings of my research a few months ago, when I was not so proficient in finding that sort of junk. Clearly, I will be more discriminate when I make a book out of this material.
From now on, I will extract material from other magazines’ issues, in search of the most exciting stuff.
The following cases 80-7 are taken from: German weekly Der Spiegel dated April 11 (Cases 80-2), Time magazine dated March 30 (Case 83), French weekly Le Point dated March 12 (Case 84), French weekly Marianne dated March 20 (Cases 85-6), and finally Le Point again dated March 19 (Case 87).
…………….Case 80 Union Invesment EXTRA-PAIR SEX
The copy, in German, says ‘Why are socks always disappearing from the washing machine?’ and we see a father and his son wondering at their finding only one sock from a pair among the washing. The copy further says that, although we cannot explain everything, at least having one’s savings at Union Investment (the investment branch of Deutsche Zentral-Genossenschaftsbank) is a safe and transparent option, liable to no bad surprise. I leave it to you whether this is a fine, clever advertisement so far as the preceding is concerned.
What I am interested in is the subliminal gorilla sitting in the background behind the kid. He smiles at a woman reclining with her head on its bulging stomach. Both the gorilla and the woman seem to like each other very much. In fact, they have just had sex. The woman is naked, the white skin of her shoulder or breast being apparent. Of course, she is the man’s wife, and the kid is her son. The man has a distinct moronic look about him, smiling as do morons. One would expect to see slobber drooling from the commissure of his lips. As to the son, I’m afraid his ears (having perhaps been airbrushed) are somewhat large and extend a bit far from the skull, like pinheads’ ears. Even more striking is the size of his left forearm. As you can see, his left hand is leaning on the top of the washing machine, but there is something wrong with the perspective: it is hardly believable that this is his hand, because it means the forearm is unusually long. Now please recall that gorillas have very long forearms. This feature of the kid’s arm hints at the gorilla being no less than the biological father…
This is a most elaborate way of playing on the all-pervasive paternity uncertainty, a source of many ailments in our civilization, from pathological jealousy to domestic violence to refusal to commitment and single mothers (whose kids, it has been found, are more likely to become delinquents*)… And it is no figment of the masculine imagination either, since child support agencies, which administer paternity tests on a daily basis, report a non-paternity rate (that is the number of children not sired by the men who believe to be the fathers) of 15 per cent (Robin Baker 1996). The advert subliminally plays on that. It says: Don’t be a moron like the guy here, with the sock in his hands, and contract with Union Investment, or DZ Bank, or else your wife will know how to cuckold you. In other words, it is the cuckolds who do not rely on Union Investment for the management of their savings.
Besides, it is likely that a cuckold will not care very much to save money for his kids if these are not really his, and a man who entertains such doubts will hesitate to save money for he knows not whom’s kids. So much so that one who does not save money for one’s kids may well be suspected of being a cuckold and of knowing it or surmising it. So the advert also asks: Are you a cuckold(, or what)?
Finally, gorillas are animals where male dominance is particularly salient (see my remarks on Case 73 here). The advert implies, subliminally, that one will be cuckolded by a more dominant male, and that having one’s savings to Union Investment will prevent that by showing off one’s dominance, unlike the moron with the single sock in his hands. In other words, Union Investment is the dominants’ bank.
As a postface to Case 80, that dialogue quoted from a famous play. “Hjalmar. I want to know if… your child has a right to live under my roof. Is Hedwig mine… or… Well? Gina. I don’t know.” (Ibsen, The Wild Duck)
*Note. The correlation I mention between single mothers and delinquent offspring is no statement on causality. The correlation may be due to most single mothers being poor, and the primary cause monetary deprivation. I mention the correlation as a way to justify my speaking of “ailment” although many a single mother might object to the label, especially among women separated from wealthy businessmen and earning comfortable alimonies.
…………….Case 81 Freistaat Thüringen SEX Again
Same advert as Case 40 (click here for the full picture). In the same coppice where I outlined sex embeds, I presently delineate the interesting drawing of an erected penis attended by three nymphs, represented as two faces on the right and an animal on the left. True to human anatomy, the testes are asymmetric.
…………….Case 82 Peugeot SEX
An advert for the French car manufacturer Peugeot. The copy is strictly insignificant although I doubt not some public relation men from the advertising milieu would easily extol its merits to a credulous public. What I want you to see is the penis ejaculating on the model’s face. The penis, namely the glans with a well-delineated coronal ridge, as well as the upper part of the shaft, are visible in the guise of sun beams. Part of the glans is covered by a brighter spark, which could represent semen flowing on the glans due to the peculiar position or movement of the penis during an earlier spurt (or else it could be a way to conceal that disturbing penis to consciousness). At the present moment, a fraction of second after the earlier spurt, another spurt is projected through the meatus toward the model’s cheek, or hair, on the left. The copy is now more meaningful. ‘Impress Yourself’ by submitting young girls to your sexual fantasies thanks to being the owner of a Peugeot car. Facial ejaculation is indicative of female subjection (cf. H. J. Eysenck).
…………….Case 83 Microsoft SEX
An advert for Microsoft Cloud from the same campaign as here. The green arrow ends in a cloud. The cloud shows a woman’s face. She has the arrow in her mouth and seems to enjoy it. If you think I am seeing imaginary things in clouds, please let me remind you that the cloud here is not a cloud in the sky but a cloud in an ad, and that makes a big difference. I can admit there is no God or gods that send intricate signals to us humans through clouds’ shapes, but the graphic designer of this ad is a human being like you and me – with that difference that he or she probably earns a lot more money, because the ad having being published in major papers and magazines around the world the campaign must have been immensely expensive, and the advertiser remunerated in consequence.
……………..Case 84 Constance Hotels and Resorts SEX
I don’t know if this one should be called subliminal at all, but I want to be sure you understand what is going on, because it comes from a respected newspaper and I know quite a few people who would blush to acknowledge their being exposed to that sort of a junk.
As to subliminals, maybe the cloud above the woman is a bit phallic, being erected contrary to the other clouds. And there’s a old man’s face grinning in the upper right corner, showing sarcastic approval and enjoyment.
The lady is coming back from her bath in the sea toward the beach, where an attendant from the hotel is waiting with towels. How long has he been waiting? Is it really how employees attend to customers in Constance hotels and resorts? Is the customer there offered a return to the old days of footmanship, when lackeys were at their master’s disposal night and day? Be that as it may, there is more to find in Constance hotels and resorts. The lady looks determinedly and eagerly at the local employee’s face. She wears a sort of nightdress, and that seems rather strange for sea bathing. As I can see no nuance in colors indicative of a bathing suit under that dress, and as the dress being white it has by necessity become transparent due to immersion in water, the lady is actually exhibiting herself to the employee facing her. In particular, her pubic hair must be conspicuous. Furthermore, if she is intent on using the towels, that will prove a futile exercise unless she removes the wet gown, that is to say unless she undresses in front of the employee. That the advert is coarse eroticism is not to deny. Why should it be called subliminal at all? It’s coarse, it’s vulgar, it’s in your face (not tongue in cheek), and it occurs while you may be under the fancy that you do your duty as a respectable member of the society by keeping yourself informed of the news.
…………….Case 85 Audi SEX
Same ad as Case 5 (click here for the full picture). I did not expatiate then on the copy ‘Less and the City,’ which refers – tongue in cheek, as always – to the successful TV series ‘Sex and the City,’ and I won’t here either. You already know, if you have followed this series, that when I report copy as being ‘tongue in cheek,’ it means that it’s deadly serious. No, what I call your attention to presently is the fellatio performed to a spectacled man looking in your direction. It may be a portrait of the former president of Volkswagen’s directory, who resigned on September 23 (taking with him a golden parachute of 28 million euros) following the disclosure of a huge fraud involving 11 million cars of several marques of the group, including Audi, souped up with anti-antipollution test software (I’ve just seen his picture in the papers and I think our man here looks like him.) If Volkswagen’s lawyers now have the judiciary proceedings go their own way, we will learn not only that decisions in the group are hypercentralized, so that all in all a very small number of people could have known, but also that the top brass – the men who centralize the power – were utterly ignorant of what was happening, so that the fraud can only be the mischief of some crazed engineer, a minor one at that. And if, on the other hand, they do not have it their way, the economic consequences will be tremendous not only for the first car manufacturer in the world (providing their daily bread to 600,000 people, not to mention contractors) but for the world itself, so to speak.
…………….Case 86 Mgen SEX
The model on the ad is a skier, a champion. People like him. Sport is so important because it boosts your testosterone. When your favorite player or team wins, you get a testosterone boost (G. Saad 2011). When it loses, you’ve really got to watch another match, or another sport, where another of your favorites can win again. It keeps you high. And it makes you buy. A little subliminal can do no harm either, can it? That’s why the graphic designer has embedded in the background a smiling woman’s face presented with a penis.
…………….Case 87 Mettez Paris SEX
Hunters, it is well known, are Nature’s best friends. The present ad, however, tells another story. It is a cheap ad for a dress business located in Paris. The business sells hunting attire. The picture shows a painting of the naive genre representing a hunter and a deer before a tree adorned with wild fowl, bird and squirrel. The deer’s eye is wicked. The hunter’s left hand holds a branch of the tree; the part he is holding is quite dark, but further on the right the branch is silvery gray like steel, as if the hunter were not holding a branch but instead were brandishing a knife. And, astonishingly, the whole painting is smeared with a reddish brown substance, like dried blood. The ad, obviously, intends to appeal to bloodthirsty, brutish minds, to violent people eager to indulge in butchering live bodies – the very friends of Nature we were just talking about.
In his four books, written from 1973 to 1989, Wilson Bryan Key has discussed perhaps between 100 and 200 cases of subliminal advertising, for a research extending over 20-25 years. The other material he collected has not been published. What I am intending to demonstrate is that you can easily extract 100 cases from press publications over a three-months period. For the present issue, number X of my Subliminal Advertising (now Subliminal Junk) series, I keep extracting advertisements from the same magazines and newspapers I have been using for issues I-IX, namely fifteen issues altogether of various papers, dated March, April, or May 2015. In Subliminal Junk IX, I wrote that lack of time and patience prevented me from presenting more cases from the same papers. This is not good advertising of myself – if I have no time and patience to do something well enough, then I really should consider leaving it alone – and, besides, I have more patience than the average guy, so that is no good excuse either. In fact, what keeps me from showing all the subliminals I find is the redundancy and repetition in the technique; in many cases, adding examples would only be boring to the reader. In a way, I am doing honor to the advertisements I select. Many are discarded in the process, not on the ground, though, that they are devoid of subliminal junk, but because I do not find their junk exciting enough.
At the end of this post, the number of cases will be 79 – or 81 if you include the two first case studies, one on Microsoft (here) and the other on Peugeot (here), which I made before starting the Subliminal Advertising (now Subliminal Junk) series. The seven following cases are taken from: Vanity Fair from May 2015 (Case 74), Vanity Fair from April 2015 (75-7), and Vogue Italian Edition from May 2015 (78-9).
………………Case 74 Dom Perignon SEX
This one is from the same as Case 35 (here), to which I refer you for the whole picture and the word SEX embedded among the sea spray. (The whole picture, by the way, is topical: a phallic champagne bottle and explosive sea spray…) On the backward, towards the right, I have outlined a couple of interesting drawings that have been added to bolster the ad’s impact. Pictures 74-2 and 74-3 show the same part of the advert twice because the artist has used a technique known by those who are acquainted with Salvador Dali’s painting Slave Market With the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire. The technique consists in setting two different reality objects as one pictorial object; in Dali’s painting, a group of body shapes are Voltaire’s face at the same time.
On Picture 74-2, I show three faces. The face on the left is that of a half-conscious woman, sick because of alcohol consumption. I did the best I could in the outlining but I strongly advise you to look at the Picture 74, the bare one, to get a more appropriate idea of the artist’s rendition of a drunken woman falling out of consciousness or miserable with feelings of faintness. The second face, toward the right, is that of another woman. That one is in distress too, her black eyes wide open while she vomits. Close against her on the right is a man’s face, smiling, not disgusted at all by what is happening. He probably knows he will achieve his goal now, with this or both women. I can see a wig on his head, which would make him a fine eighteenth-century roué, very much in line, I guess, with what a Dom Perignon connoisseur is likely to admire.
On Picture 74-3, we come back to the first woman’s face, but this time it shows something different, albeit the idea is not so different. It shows a woman bent forward, hair falling down and almost touching the ground, hands pressed against the knees. She too is in a dejected state due to drinking. While she copes with her present misery, a smiling bearlike creature is gently grabbing at her. His face is against her buttocks, his paw clasping her thigh. The bear, although not altogether deprived of seeming benevolence, looks as if he were intent on taking advantage of the situation.
This is the message subliminally addressed to viewers: Intoxicate your preys with Dom Perignon and –voilà ! – it’s done.
This would be the male reader’s viewpoint. For the female reader, however, such an interpretation would make the advert repulsive, so there must be other possible interpretations available to her, or to both sexes for that matter. Woman number one, then, instead of fainting from intoxication, would be gently falling in a post-copulatory swoon, having just climaxed. As to woman number two, something would be forced into her mouth, namely a penis, and she would look distressed due to her fear that it may choke her, or because she is actually choking, to the great amusement of the roué looking at this rough scene of oral sex. Finally, the woman in Picture 74-3 would not be on the verge of vomiting, but simply waiting for the bear to mount her. Such scenes are probably repulsive to most men and women, and to many a Dom Perignon patron too, at conscious level — but on a subliminal plane that seems to be another story.
…………….Case 75 Louis Vuitton SEX
This advertisement for Louis Vuitton is of the same series designed for the manufacturer as Case 33 (here). First of all, I would like to call your attention on the way the model is wearing her bag. Although we have the typical background of bright sky and blue sea so appealing to dejected employees, the woman is fearing something is going to happen to her. She is holding the bag against her chest, looking at a distance, as if she had been suddenly aware of a desperado’s presence. The scene, in fact, is mildly nerve-racking. It’s only because you do not expect such tone in a tropical advert for a handbag that you did not perceive it at first. Well, you did not perceive it, maybe, but your lizard brain has registered the model’s unquietness nevertheless – because it has no preconceived social expectations like yourself, I mean your conscious self, which is easily tricked by advertisers because of the preconceived notions we are all using as shortcuts to deal with the requirements of everyday life.
That lizard brain of yours may also have registered something else. On the turquoise waves a drawing has been embedded. It represents two kids and a man, all naked. One kid is leaning against the other’s shoulder. Maybe he’s tired, maybe he’s ashamed, maybe he’s crying. The other kid is masturbating the man’s penis. The man is lying on the back, both hands under his head. He’s enjoying. This is subliminal pedophilia, something we have already come across (Case 52 here). As a first guess, I’d say it will (discarding any sexual stimulation effect) contribute to heighten in the female viewer the anxiety produced by perceiving, unconsciously most of the time, the model’s apprehensiveness. Remember mirror cells in the brain tend to reproduce as yours the emotions you perceive: that is their function, and I suggest they will reproduce emotions even when you fail to interpret these emotions correctly at conscious level. Choosing a handbag is in itself an anxious experience – all choices imply some degree of anxiety – and here it is connected with status anxiety, like all fashion. Anxiety advertising is aimed at producing the right crisis in the mind.
One objection could be made by uninformed readers that mirror cells cannot be induced to react in the present case, as people know it is only an advertisement and the model is acting. In reality, our mirror cells can function as usual even when we know that the person we look at is simulating emotions. Without such a functioning in the face of all our knowledge, movie theaters would remain empty. It is because people let themselves be moved by acting that they enjoy cinema, and they can do that because even their knowledge of the whole stuff being acting and simulation does not prevent their mirror cells to function and induce in them the emotional states they perceive. Now the difference between a good actor and a bad one is that the former is capable of mimicking emotions most perfectly, whereas the latter is not and lets perceive a discrepancy between his behavior or attitude and the emotion he is supposed to be acting. Bad actors betray that their inner state is alien to their role, and such discrepancy makes them, and the whole scene, ridiculous. In spite of our willingness, our mirror cells cannot be fooled by bad actors, and we resent them for the poor performance.
These remarks allow one to describe the impact of advertising, even printed advertising, in terms of mirror cells. Advertising models are asked to express emotions, which the photographer will try to capture on the picture. In Case 75, I suggested that the model is expressing some feeling of anguish that would remain unperceived at conscious level insomuch as it makes no sense at all for the uninformed consumer that fear should be made use of in that kind of advertising, especially with a cliché bright sky, blue sea background. As it makes no sense, the stimuli that would allow the correct interpretation remain unattended.
One thing, however, must be added. The model here has not been asked to play genuine anguish. In fact, she was asked to look disquieted, with her gaze and her holding the bag against her chest, but not entirely so, in order to confuse the brain and prevent any possibility that the right interpretation be brought to consciousness. The way she is holding the bag against her chest is ambiguous, the gesture is soft, there is no muscular tension, no crispation as would be expected from true disquiet. So in a way this is a case of bad acting, some stimuli indicating one emotional state and some other stimuli from the same source indicating another emotional state. Except that the discrepancy here has been designed intentionally, so that the viewer will more easily discard the stimuli that make no sense, i.e. anguish or, more mildly, disquiet, since are also present the stimuli that make perfect sense to the conscious mind – a young woman strolling on a beach or a riviera by a fine summer day with her handbag, which she carries most gently, and why not against her chest, if she likes? Her looks seem a bit odd, for sure… but, wait, she’s so young and at that age one is easily troubled. So far so good. If the character is troubled, then there is something troubling about the advertisement. I just wanted to be sure you noticed. Finally, the discrepancy may serve the purpose of disquieting the unattending brain and thus remaining engraved inside as a puzzle, something unexplained and thus potentially threatening (despite the conscious interpretation of the ad as being innocuous, trite stuff). And then there is the subliminal drawing of pedophiliac erotica.
……………..Case 76 Patek Philippe SEX
We have already seen this advert, Case 29 (here), where I show a sex embed. As with Case 74 above, the sex embed is not only a sex embed, no more than it is solely, it goes without saying, the shades of a coppice in the background. There is also present a half-erected penis. The testes have been painted prominent. It’s not so much about the penis, this time, as about the reproductive stamina. If you’re interested, you can find another sex embed stuck to the woman’s left shoulder. Above this embed are two faces, which I do not care to outline, but that you may find too. It’s the woman’s parents, the father on the left, with large whiskers, a Colonel Goodchild of sorts, the mother on the right, fateful and zombie-looking, with a face larger than her man’s.
…………….Case 77 Elie Saab SEX
Same as Case 30 (here). Besides the sex embed in the model’s hair, the folds of her dress, nicely swollen by the wind, delineate a copulation. We see two bottoms and two backs. The woman’s pubis is concealed by the top of the perfume bottle but I have indicated the navel (though I’m not inventing it: it’s there) so you can orient yourselves in these folds. The woman is on her knees, the man on her, they’re making it more ferarum, which is the Latin for doggy-style, if you care to know. The man, though, is not well oriented on her mate’s back, he is bending toward the left, and I suggest this is toward another mate, which he is kissing or on whom he is performing a cuninlingus.
…………….Case 78 Louis Vuitton SEX
From the same series as Cases 33 and 75. I have nothing to say about the picture itself. Please proceed directly to Pictures 78-2 and 78-3, and into the turquoise waters where strange Tritons and Nereids are having a subliminal orgy. On the left side, a woman is licking the testes of a half-erected penis bending toward the left. No doubt the penis will be full hard soon. Close against the woman on her right, we can see the back and buttocks of another woman, sat on a penis. A third woman, futher on the right and a little below, is also impaled on a penis, and smiles at you. (The smiling head could be that of a fourth woman, though, as it is separated from the bottom with the penis inside it, a bottom which can be completed instead by a female back and a black-haired head contiguous to it on the right side.) From this group further to the right and below, a woman is taken more ferarum by a crocodile or a doglike creature on her back. Her visage expresses intense contentment. (We have already come across subliminal bestiality, in Case 59 here.) In the space between these two lovers, another face is staring at you; it is a smiling death’s head, or just another Mister Grin.
From this case I conclude that women too like pornography, providing it be subliminal.
……………..Case 79 QC Terme Spas and Resorts SEX
The model’s expression is well-being. On Picture 79-2, she is embraced by a subliminal man (à la Modigliani, not my favourite embeds: I prefer more realistic objects, more difficult to object to by opponents), and besides a little Death figure, very realistically drawn with skeleton and the customary cloak and hood, is staring at her with its typical grin. Please take a closer look at Picture 79-1 to appreciate the fine rendition of the skull. Health concerns are involved, as you have understood.
Pictures 79-3 and 79-4 display a fellatio, rather ethereal, admittedly, but it’s there nonetheless, and the white smears at the tip of the glans and further below indicate ejaculation. EPC (extra-pair copulation) prospects in spas and resorts have served as material for the advertiser.