10 Disturbing Trends in Subliminal Advertising
advertising has gone mainstream - fake news, mind control scripts, propaganda
and stealth voicemail are in wide use by corporations, government bodies
and industry groups.
Author of We
Know What You Want: How They Change Your Mind
Some of the
biggest advertisers are taking their advertising away from full page ads
and television spots and spending up on hidden persuasion. You won't find
these secret messages in ice-cubes or flickering film footage like they
were in the sixties. Subliminal advertising has gone mainstream - fake
news, mind control scripts, propaganda and stealth voicemail are in wide
use by corporations, government bodies, and industry groups. Have you
spotted any of these?
Point of Sale Mind Control Scripts
Clothing store staff and car salesmen use them to close the deal - carefully
planned questions and subverbal cues to get you to sign. If youve
ever walked out of a store, after spending twice as much as you wanted
to, chances are youve fallen victim to one of these scripts. The
GAPACT is used by Gap staff to upsell you. Other salesmen use word techniques
to make you buy, even when you dont have the money - because they
make more by selling you 'easy' finance. When a car salesmen takes you
on a test drive and asks you Is this the type of vehicle you would
like to own?, he is using a subtle mental framing trick - it can
create an embarrassing distraction while you drive. The technique is called
disassociation - which is the ideal state for mental manipulation.
Doctor-Patient Drug Kick-backs
When a doctor recommends a certain heart medication or an antidepressant,
chances are he has been paid a cash bonuses and perks by the manufacturer,
making it difficult to give objective advice. Some pharmaceutical firms
have gone so far as to invent and promote a new syndrome in order to create
a market for a new drug! Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) was devised in
1998 and publicised by planting fifty press stories and quizzes such as:
Do you have social anxiety disorder?. Soon after, Smithkline
Beecham released Paxil - the 'cure' for SAD.
In-Store Sensory Manipulation
Scientifically tested visual displays, Muzak tapes, and even mind altering
scents combine to maximize impulse spending. Specially designed music
loops can keep shoppers in the supermarket for 18% longer. One study into
use of airborne aromas, pumped into a Canadian mall, resulted in an increase
of over $50 per customer that week. In supermarkets, scientifically generated
Planograms create the ideal shelf arrangement for certain products, skewing
the shopper's eyes towards high value items. Companies pay slotting allowances
for favoured placement. Aisle layout are change regularly - which prevents
systematic shopping - forcing extra trips past the impulse item displays.
Private Conversation Rental
Positive buzz can be triggered artificially for a price. Marketers now
recruit secret 'buzz agents' to promote to their friends and family. One
buzz agency claims to have an army of agents in every major US city. Their
job is to mention or display certain products as they go about their day,
using their relationships as marketing channels. Music labels, book sellers,
entertainment venues, and fashion outlets are using this method to establish
new brands. Todays billion dollar 12-16 year olds are so immune
to traditional advertising, mass media is no longer a reliable persuasive
device - so the alternative is a 'synthetic grapevine.
Corporations are going to enormous lengths to probe the minds of consumers
- literally tapping into their brains. The Brighthouse Institute for Thought
Sciences, in Atlanta, is one lab that is scanning people's brains with
MRIs, in an effort to decode and record our subconscious thoughts and
devise more seductive advertising. The process is being called neuromarketing.
They are hoping to determine specific biological triggers that can be
used by language engineers to stimulate purchases. This is the hi-tech
fulfilment of pioneer psychologists Freud and Jung who established the
connection between language and behaviour.
Chatbots and Stealth Voicemail
Personal phone messages from businesses or political campaigners can turn
up in your morning voicemail, having been delivered late the previous
night. Voicemail broadcasters like DialAmerica uses massive computer installations
to deliver identical copies of spoken messages to millions of householder
simultaneously. On the internet, chat room 'bots' masquerading as personal
real buddies are actually distributed simultaneously by powerful computers
24 hours a day. Virtual word-of-mouth communication is replacing other
promotional technologies because of its speed and price.
Real-time Bugging of Personal Data
Your browser is probably revealing more than you might want: your location,
the software and hardware you are using, details of other links you clicked
on and your browsing habits. Many third party dataminers use 'cookies'
to track your path across the web. Extensive realtime information is processed
to target you. Larger databases harvest your personal medical and financial
records to be bought and sold by interested companies and government departments.
Datamining is a fuzzy science that filters you personal information for
links about your personal behaviour and finances. These details are used
in turn to create elaborate marketing campaigns to sell you more stuff.
The public space of streets, neighborhoods and communities is being mapped
and targeted by viral marketers and fake grassroots organizations. In
some cases the campaigns are overt but, increasingly, street 'agents'
are making unannounced social approaches. Fake tourists flash around the
latest camera-phone to passing crowds. 'Product seeders' circulate at
sports events to find influential young players to wear their gear. Others
wander the street wearing colored corporate tattoos. Personal space is
the last frontier for commerce. As citizens attempt to retreat from the
deluge of media advertising they can now be stalked when they step out
Planted News Stories
Industry front groups, public relations firms and government departments
are planting news stories on TV, radio, newspapers and the web. Those
'miracle drug' stories or research reports are often Video News Release
(VNRs). TV newsrooms love these prepackaged news items that are distributed
across the networks. It saves them time and money but it is killing community
news and genuine investigative reporting. Real news items are being replaced
by slick corporate promotions and political messages. According to one
Nielsen Media Research Survey, about 80 percent of U.S. news directors
air VNRs several times a month, and all American television newsrooms
now use VNRs in their newscasts.
When it's time to launch a war or promote an unpopular policy, the government
needs special help to sell the idea through the media. Opinion engineers
are paid to "manage" public perception of inconvenient facts,
and turn them around for better. Using the universal tools fear, patriotism,
and phrase repetition, these high flying spin doctors can easily sway
the population. The most successful public relations campaigns aim to
change public perception without our awareness of the campaign. They are
typically launched by governments, institutions and countries who need
to change their public image, restore their reputation or manipulate public
opinion. There are PR firms today who advise dictatorships, dishonest
politicians and corrupt industries to cover up environmental catastrophes
and human rights violations.
Howard is a media researcher and author of "We
Know What You Want: How They Change Your Mind".
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