Subliminal advertising, briefly captured the nation’s attention a half century ago before turning out to be a hoax. In 1958, television networks banned subliminal ads after reports claimed that movie audiences could be induced to buy soft drinks and popcorn by the flashing of written commands onto the projection screen for a split second. It turned out that such ads rarely had any effect on consumer behavior.
A new wave of advertising aims to tap straight into the unconscious mind, primarily through the use of product placements in movies and television.Marketers who have plugged into the latest neurological research know that repeated exposure to consumer products affects a customer’s desire for such products.
A threshold level of exposure, such as a series of images of actors in a movie wearing logo-branded clothing (ie James Bond wearing a certain brand of sun glasses), raises observers’ preference for the marketed object, even though they may not be aware of the branding, according to a 2008 study by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Limited exposures suggest to the unconscious brain that the advertised product is scarce and thus has value. However once the exposure reaches a level where the unconscious brain perceives the object as common and thus easily obtained, it loses its value.
This research points the way toward a potential wave of neuro-marketing, where advertising campaigns are designed to sell products not on the basis of rational choice but rather through sub-conscious appeal. In South Africa Hannon effectively increased the desire for his hair products in the movie “Jimmy in pienk”.