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How to identify Subliminal Advertising

Las marcas mas importantes del mercado han usado publicidad subliminal

You’ve probably seen a lot of subliminal advertising without realizing it. There is a whole diversity of commercials that you don’t understand why they are attractive to you, but you like to watch them and sometimes you try to decipher them

Here we tell you all about subliminal advertising, from how it works, a bit of its history and some examples that you will surely like and probably have seen. Stay until the end!

Subliminal advertising is considered to be any audiovisual material that incites the consumption of a product, but is not consciously perceived by the viewer. Unless, of course, it is detailed in more depth.

In fact, it is said that the brain is not able to consciously perceive images whose succession is 14 images per second. However, images can remain in the subconscious and influence consumer behavior.

Sometimes images are not the only ones that get into your unconscious, many times it is also the music and the effects that accompany a commercial

You realize when you are in front of a subliminal advertising because you are curious about the product: to know what it is, how it works, how to buy it, what it is made of and other information.

According to advertising scholars, a great number of advertising posters or commercials contain subliminal messages that stimulate the brain to cover some intensity, taste some kind of sensation or consume some kind of product. Most experts agree that a large number of advertising materials contain implicit messages related to sex and death.

Las bebidas alcohólicas suelen ser expertas en usar publicidad subliminal, especialmente, haciendo referencia al cuerpo femenino
Alcoholic beverages are often experts in using subliminal advertising, especially in reference to the female body

Since the beginning of advertising, implicit messages were already used, however, it was not until 1957 that the controversial American publicist, James Vicary, began to do research and experiments to see if subliminal advertising worked.

Coca Cola was the company that allowed a good part of Vicary’s experiments, who interspersed images of the brand with popcorn. Both products were shown in absentia at full speed, using the phrases “Drink Coca Cola” and “Eat Popcorn,” Vicary explained during a press conference on September 12, 1927.

The letters went by so fast that they were difficult to read, but, even so, the figures of both products increased, and perhaps since then many people, from generation to generation, have approved the marriage of both flavors… It was certainly an incitement that nobody resisted… Advertising manipulation really exists!

And speaking of subliminal advertising and Coca Cola… It is said that the Coca Cola bottle has a subliminal design because it is said that it resembles the silhouette of a woman. Although its creators have claimed for years that it is only an ergonomic design for when the bottle is wet.

 Coca Cola se ha convertido en un referente en lo que se refiere a publicidad subliminal y no subliminal
Coca Cola has become a benchmark for subliminal and non-subliminal advertising

Many claim that Vicary had not discovered subliminal advertising, as it had existed long before, but he was in charge of formalizing the study of it and going further to explain how it worked, something that until then was only known to advertisers and big brands.

Each commercial is created with a purpose, therefore, they all use different strategies. Here we tell you about the ways in which big companies manage to sell you their products and services with subliminal advertising

  • High frequency broadcasts: among the types of subliminal advertising, this is one of the most controversial. It occurs when images or audios are incorporated at high speed. This is a very popular resource not only in advertising spots, series or movies
  • Visual illusions: when this modality is used, the lines, shapes and spaces of the images are played with, so that they remind us of something completely different. In this section, visual pareidolias can be included… as they are associated with sensual figures or simply shapes, with another complementary message.
  • High intensity of light and sound: this resource is used to give greater prominence to some element or product.
  • Images with double meaning: these are images that are created with a purpose, but they can be given another reading.
Cuando se habla de publicidad subliminal, esta imagen de kétchup es un clásico por los colores y el uso del doble sentido
When talking about subliminal advertising, this image of ketchup is a classic because of the colors and the use of double meaning
  • Ambience with light and sound: in this case, an environment is created to generate certain types of emotions or sensations through lights and/or sounds.
  • Camouflaged images: these are images whose meaning is implicit within another image. Generally, this is the case of posters and advertising spots with sexual connotations
  • Color psychology: It is believed that the big fast food franchises use the colors red, yellow y blue vibrant colors to create a stimulating effect on the consumer, both urgency to purchase the product or even hunger. At a certain point in the research on color psychology, it is also said that these types of bright and aggressive colors create the feeling of eating fast and going away. Generally speaking, the psychology of each color can have an effect on the consumer, because they carry a meaning.

“Advertisement is one that sells the product without drawing attention to itself”. Advertising should be clever and impressive, but not overwhelming. You may have seen many ads that changed your perception of a brand without you noticing it.
why? Because the message is subliminal.”

David Ogilvy, recognized as “the father of modern advertising.”
  • FedEx: The logo of this logistics company is an example of visual pareidolia. In the name it is possible to see an arrow between the letters E and X, which reinforces the brand’s message regarding the speed of its deliveries. It is also a clear reference to efficiency, precision and speed, i.e., the brand’s values.
Logo de Fedex
  • Pepsi: This is an ad created for Halloween that uses double entendre imagery and mockery, becoming so good that it makes the viewer think how terrible it would be to be fooled by a Coke. The competition, on the other hand, responded with the same ad, but changed the text to “Everyone wants to be a hero”, a great and unexpected strategy!
Campaña Pepsi vs Coca Cola
  • Amazon: This is a classic, as it plays perfectly with visual pareidolia. Amazon’s smile reflects the happiness of its users, who can find everything they want on its platform… searching from A to Z. There are no flaws in this logic and we all agree!
Logo de Amazon
  • Milky Way: A nap and a sweet sleep is what this Milky Way filled chocolates campaign undoubtedly conveys. A relaxing experience!
Cartel de Milky Way
  • Nescafé: The use of such an everyday object as a relay is a reflection of the slogan of the brand’s claim “Wake up to life”. If you add to that the red color that Nescafé always uses and a cup of coffee, the visual game is complete… it’s vitality all around, just what the brand wants to communicate: to invite consumers to wake up and start the day with a cup of coffee.
Cartel de Nescafé

Some psychologists have delved a little deeper into the subject, discovering that when strategically designed and well worked out, it can achieve its purpose. A team from the University of Utretch concluded that subliminal advertising works best when people are familiar with the brand, as they already have a conception of the brand and are more open to receiving it.

While another study by the University College of London, delved a little deeper into the subject, indicating that when the consumer is faced with a negative subliminal advertising, a greater impact is generated in the subconscious, because the brain is prepared to be alert and reacts to any stimulus, making it vulnerable to subliminal advertising.

Throughout the history of subliminal advertising, it is believed that it shapes consumer behavior, and although it certainly influences the attractiveness of a commercial, not all consumers are able to understand it… it may attract their attention, but it often depends on the predisposition of each individual, as well as cultural factors, gender, age, geolocation, among other aspects.

The secret of advertising lies precisely in generating a diversity of reactions, regardless of the meaning that each person gives it, in the end the goal is to attract and finally convert consumers into buyers, not necessarily deceive them as it was once believed.


With a degree in Psychology and a passion for flamenco guitar and board games, my professional journey has deeply explored the intricate link between human behavior and marketing. Over the years, I've honed my ability to analyze and interpret market trends and consumer responses. At The Color Blog, I blend my psychological insights with my love for writing, providing unique perspectives on marketing, history, and the human interactions that shape our digital age.View Author posts

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