Subliminal Ads

by Candace RichComment — Updated August 3, 2023

What is a subliminal ad?

“Subliminal projection” is a technique of projecting information below the viewing audience’s threshold of sensation or awareness. It involves flashing a message lasting only a fraction of a second on the television or movie screen. Theoretically, a viewer could receive such a message without realizing he or she had observed it.

They flash the ad message so fast that while you don’t “see” it you mind registers the message.

In 1956 a special projector was installed in a Fort Lee, N.J., movie theater. During a six-week period, patrons reportedly were exposed to two advertising messages projected subliminally on the screen during the regular presentation of the motion picture “Picnic.”

The words “Drink Coca-Cola” and “Hungry? Eat Popcorn” were flashed on the screen every five seconds at the subliminal level of 1/3000th of a second. And concession sales increased.

On January 13, 1958, members of Congress and the news media witnesses a demonstration of subliminal projection on closed-circuit television facilities provided by WTOP-TV, Washington. Short messages were flashed subliminally (1/20 of a second) at five-second intervals during a showing of “The Gray Ghost.” The messages were made visible to the audience later.

The possibilities for abuse were enormous. People feared brainwashing for political purposes.

At the May 1958 convention of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), its TV Code Review Board amended the NAB Television Code and banned subliminal perception.

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