Controversial subliminal messages

UP Studio
3 min readJun 26, 2021


This short article talks top 3 controversial subliminal messages found in common advertisements.

Subliminal advertising is thought to be a pretty potent form of influence. But there’s really not much on which to base that conclusion

Ian Zimmerman,

In one of the previous articles we talked about the subliminal messages found in modern logos. Yet, the theory and usability of subliminal messages has been disproved and discarded in various experiments. Yet these messages were still found in advertisements. This messages started with Oscars where the advertisements were flashed for less than a second. These messages included drink coke or eat popcorn. These were later found to be of no use and the results were revealed to be fabricated.

Subliminal messages might be powerful in the right context and settings. Let;s look at some controversial messages found in advertising


Marlboro faced a dilemma when EU banned tobacco advertising in 2005. Hence, this company had to resort to other indirect forms of advertising. Being a sponsor of Ferrari, the company decided to use a rather vague barcode in F1.

This code seems to be vague but on closer look at 200km/hr it represents the Marlboro logo. This controversial subliminal message was scrapped in 2018 after backlash.


The photo seems pretty normal, right? Upon closer look the ice seems to symbolize something. Did you see it yet?

How about now? Coke certainly got in a lot of trouble for this!


KFC ran an advertisement for their new burgers which were priced at 1$. KFC reportedly claims the dollar bill was placed there as part of a contest, offering $1 coupons to the first 1000 people who found the note, yet viewers were not even aware of a contest, so how could they enter?

Conspiracy theorists assume that KFC wanted the viewer to associate a dollar bill with the a KFC Snacker burger — but it’s all speculation.


“Any strategy that gets a message to rise above the clutter is terrific from the advertiser’s perspective,” said Josh Bernoff, an analyst with Forrester Research, a Cambridge, Mass., company that analyzes technology trends. “Even if it’s not much of a secret, it’s still a pretty good marketing idea.”

Controversial or not, these advertisements definitely caught the eye of the viewers!



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