How to be immune to Subliminal Advertising (Part 3)

It can be overwhelming to realize how exposed we are to subliminal advertising. It was for me the first time I heard about all this.

Lucky for you, I bring good news:

The first is that we need to keep in mind that if subliminal truly is what they say it is, that also means we can use it to our benefit, to get past our own mind’s fears and obstacles and to achieve goals we struggle with.

The second is that the same way hypnosis doesn’t work every time for everybody, we must remember that subliminal stimuli will be similar. This is not an exact science and we are still in control!

The third is, what if I told you that you can limit the effect of subliminal advertising on you [Dramatic music].

That’s right. When there’s a problem, there’s always a solution! And research has shown that there’s a solution for us here.

Let me explain …

Photo by Oneisha Lee on Unsplash

In an amusement park, one of the activities is to watch a video (nothing utterly crazy so far!). People who agree to watch the video are told that they will have access to free refreshment drinks afterwards.

Little do they know that there is an experiment at play [Evil laugh].

A first group of people (let’s call it “Group 1”) goes into the room and sits down to watch the video.

They don’t know this but during the video are flashed images of a soda brand (we’ll call it “Coda”). The images are flashed so quickly (0,003 seconds, i.e. below the threshold of awareness) that the audience is not able to detect them and continues to watch the video as if nothing happened.

When the video is over, Group 1 is directed to the next room where, as promised, they have access to free refreshments. In the room, there are a few distributors of all kinds of drinks. Some of the distributors carry a variety of drinks, others only carry Coda.

When Group 1 walks into the room, the observing researchers see that most of them line up only behind the distributors that carry Coda.

Photo by Erik Witsoe on Unsplash

The second group of people (say “Group 2”) is now invited to watch the video. They go in and sit down, only this time the researchers do something different.

Before starting the video, they told the audience to pay close attention as something was going to happen during the video.

Group 2 went on to watch the video and, as expected, did not detect the flashed images of Coda.

However, when they walked into the next room to get their free drinks, the researchers observed that people spread out evenly between all distributors available, including those with a variety of drinks.

So, even though both groups were flashed the same images of Coda, Group 2, who was warned that something was going to happen, was not affected by them. They didn’t know what exactly was going to happen but being alerted was enough for them to be immune to the subliminal images.

What is the lesson here?

When you are alert, paying attention to what you are doing, actively watching or listening to what’s around you, you will likely limit the impact of subliminal advertising.

If you are still not sure of it, let me put it this way:

If I yawn next to you, it is very likely that you will yawn too, without even noticing that I’m the one who triggered it.

However, if first I say “Careful, I’m about to yawn” or even just “Pay attention, something is going to happen”, at that point, even if you still don’t notice I am yawning (because you’ll still be trying to understand what you have to be careful about!), I bet you won’t yawn. Do you agree?


Subliminal information is only effective because it is “unfiltered” by our conscious mind. When we are mentally alert and paying attention, we are “aware” and thus cannot be affected by sneaky information that is trying to get past our radar of perception (like a shield!).

Let’s take Facebook ads for example. When you have been scrolling on Facebook for a while, you are in “passive” mode, barely looking at these posts you’re seeing, just waiting for something to catch your attention. As you scroll down, ads are playing on the right-hand side or between the rest of the content. You are not even paying attention to them because you are looking something and in “energy saving” mode. That is when the ads are the most effective for a Brand.

So, what’s my advice?

Be “there” when you scroll, or don’t scroll!

We you walk around, look up, look around, don’t look at your phone, look at the window displays, the billboards, the shopping bags, acknowledge them, don’t let your subconscious do the job.

When you’re watching TV or a video and an ad is about to play, watch it, or turn it off (I’m talking phone turned over and sound down!). It’s because we let the ad run while we do something else that it is subliminal (or rather supraliminal).

Keep in mind that “if you know subliminal advertising is at work, it is ineffective” (Source: University of Utrecht, Netherlands)

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