But after the requisite references to debunked 1950s studies and Led Zeppelin, the article gets to the real point: that of course certain messages can work subconsciously, if they reinforce a desire the subject already has.
This should come as no surprise to anybody in our industry, of course. The article points out that product placements are like subliminal advertising, except that you have to see them.
"If you see them, they're not subliminal," Psychotherapist Helena Kedziora is quoted as saying, and points out the confusion between the "subliminal," "subconscious," and "suggestive".
"Subliminal" means to be beneath perception. But the most insidious advertising — product placements, catchy jingles, mouth-watering photography, and impulse shopping displays — feed your urges by accessing them through the senses. You just aren't necessarily consciously aware of why you suddenly want a cheeseburger. (Crap! Just typing that made me want a cheeseburger... I should be careful how I wield these magical adman powers!)
Advertising is persuasion, and persuasive techniques succeed by appealing to baser instincts and emotional triggers that are beyond rational consumption. It's just a fact of life.
The article concludes:
...people seem fascinated by the idea of what it would mean to live in a world where marketing has the ability to direct people's behaviour without their awareness -- erasing the last square inches of private space between the self and the marketplace.
I hate to tell secrets, but advertisers broke that barrier with the invention of consumer branding in the industrial revolution. Ever since then, consumer behaviour has been shaped by irrational attachments.
So will backwards masked messages and split-second images change my consumer behaviour? The National Post article implicates that, if I'm open to messages pushing me in a certain direction, I will be more easily influenced by them.
In other words, it's about as effective as hypnosis...