Sunday, October 29, 2017

Subliminal Ads: Are They Ethical? Are They Real?

Jaida Sterling

Subliminal messages in advertisements have been a topic of discussion for years, but what most people do not know is that they are not real.

The New York Post wrote an article about whether subliminal ads were real or fake in 2012.

They (an other news sources) said the idea of subliminal messaging started off as a hoax created by a researcher named James Vicary.

This hoax was about how Vicary placed the words "drink Coca-Cola" and "eat popcorn" for a short moment during a movie for a few weeks, then said the experiment "boosted Coke sales by 18% and popcorn sales by 58%."

However, this experiment was just "a gimmick to attract customers to his failing marketing business."

This realization of it being a hoax did not stop people from thinking that subliminal messages in advertising were real and impacted people's decisions in a major way.

The argument is that if you can catch the subliminal message, then it is not subliminal.

One of the most memorable "subliminal" message scandals was a George W. Bush ad aimed at Al Gore that ran the word "RATS" quickly across the screen.

People felt like this ad was trying to persuade people into picking Bush over Gore, and after people protested, it was taken down.

A political psychologist, Joel Weinberger, found that "subliminally flashing the word "RATS" in a television ad can indeed increase the negative ratings of a politician."

But is attempting to "subliminally" persuade people to do something worth it?

Vox's article, "Do subliminal messages actually work?" mentioned subliminal message experiments that showed that they give people a little push to do things that they were already inclined to do, but are "probably not worth the investment."

In an article written by BBC in 2015, it talked about a group of social psychologists at the University of Utrecht who were able to make subliminal advertising work in a strict laboratory environment with little effects.

Their work concluded that "subliminal advertising was only effective with products that people knew of and somewhat liked."

People are not as easily manipulated as some might think.

It talked about how some subliminal ads purposely aim to unethically influence and "inappropriately target a particular market."

Although there are not any specific laws that ban subliminal advertising, consumers are able to sue those they believe are causing harm to them through these advertisements.

The Federal Trade Commission requires truthfulness in the ads advertisers decide to create, and if they violate "truth-in-advertising laws by using false subliminal messages" they could potentially be fined.

Psychologists and ad experts still debate about how effective subliminal messages in advertisements can be today.

Many have found no evidence linking subliminal messages to human behavior after being exposed to these messages.

Even though it has been proven time after time that subliminal advertising does not impact people's decisions or behavior greatly, there are advertisers who still attempt to control behavior through this method.

These advertisers with their attempts to "control consumer behavior are widely perceived as unethical."

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