Saturday, 15 March 2008

Subliminal Seduction

Are you being sexually aroused by this picture? If your first thought is "No, it's a vodka and tonic", Wilson Bryan Key would beg to differ.

This magnificently unhinged book once occupied far too much of our time as art students, examining Ritz Crackers for the word 'sex' baked into them and scrutinizing drinks ads for messages airbrushed on the ice cubes. All absolute rubbish of course, which credited ad-men with access to a cabalistic insight into human nature denied us ordinary mortals, but it's a fascinating comment on the times that a book like this could become the runaway success it did.

For the cold war generation
raised on 'Manchurian Candidate'-style myths of Soviet brainwashing, the new savvy advertising bred suspicion. Too much marijuana and an almost pathological hatred of 'the man' made it but a small step for bedsit philosophers who found hidden messages in The Beatles' 'Abbey Road' to find them in whisky ads too. This was the year of 'The Parallax View', and also of 'A Clockwork Orange', so 'Subliminal Seduction' was by no means an aberration.

Key's book followed on from Lance Packard's 'Hidden Persuaders', but 'SS' took the idea of subliminal messages to its ludicrous conclusion. If you come across a copy it's well worth picking up, if only to relish the dodgy post-Freudian pop psychology and sample the almost palpable mood of post 60s comedown.


Samantha said...

Thank you for the enlightening post. Appreciate it a lot.
Subliminal messaging can indeed be very powerful. Interesting enough, a website (non-aff link) sells a bunch of subliminal programs. Might be interesting to check them out.

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Anonymous said...

I think the Hidden Persuaders book is really interesting. I have no idea what goes through advertisers heads. Although I bet a lot of peanuts have been sold in pubs ever since someone came up with the genius idea of putting a picture of a naked woman behind the packets.

Anonymous said...

I remember this book kicking around our house when I was a kid, and I spent a good amount of time trying to see the things in the photos that the captions claimed where there. I never saw them! Now I recognize it as a crackpot classic.

PRP said...

Yes, it was great to get hold of a copy after so many years.