Ice Cube Sex: The Truth About Subliminal Advertising

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Date: Winter 1996
From: Journal of Consumer Marketing(Vol. 13, Issue 5)
Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing, Ltd.
Document Type: Book review
Length: 1,753 words

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According to Dr Wison Bryan Key, chief propagandist for the idea that advertisers are subliminally seducing the public, many hidden words and pictures can be found in advertising, notably in the ice cubes in liquor ads. Dr Key claims that ice cubes can have gender, and therefore can also have sex! Whither the titillating title of this tome.

Subliminal advertising allegedly registers below an individual's threshold of conscious perception, with the result supposedly being that human behavior is manipulated or controlled without people's awareness. Subliminal advertising communications can be produced three ways:

(1) By briefly flashing a visual stimulus too quickly for an individual to be consciously aware of it (e.g. James Vicary's well-known movie theater experiment with the messages "Drink Coke" and "Hungry? Eat popcorn").

(2) By using subaudible messages, i.e. auditory stimuli which are played at a low volume and under a "carrier" of music, ocean waves, etc. so that they cannot be heard.

(3) By use of embedded stimuli, words and pictures (especially of a sexual nature, such as the word "sex" and women's breasts within ice cubes used in liquor advertising artwork) hidden within larger illustrations.

Although Ice Cube Sex discusses all three forms of subliminal communication, the focus is on embeds since they are the object of Key's obsession.

This brief book claims to be the first comprehensive rebuttal to Dr Key's widely-publicized thesis disseminated via his books and lectures that consumers are being barraged and influenced by subliminal advertising. Dr Haberstroh penned this book with two purposes in mind. First, to provide the public with the truth regarding subliminal advertising; that it does not exist and does not work and, second, to exhort advertising professionals to speak out against this charlatan.

Dr Haberstroh's concern stems from at least five reputable and independent research studies which confirm that about 62 percent of all Americans continue to believe that advertising practitioners are deliberately embedding invisible messages and images into nearly all of the ads and commercials they create. Yet, there is no substantial proof that subliminal advertising exists let alone affects consumers' thinking or behavior.

Haberstroh traces the history of subliminal advertising, beginning with Vicary's 1957 movie-theatre experiment, through Key's four books on the subject. He goes on to question the phenomenon's existence and efficacy, explains why it is an issue which advertising practitioners and advertising educators should be concerned with, tells how we know that the majority of the public has been duped by media publicity into believing that their minds are being secretly assaulted by advertising and why they believe this, reviews the legality of subliminal advertising, and issues a call to arms to the...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A18542759