Subliminal messages are any sensory stimuli that occur below an individual’s threshold of conscious awareness. What this means is messages can be sent to your mind without you being aware of the fact.

The concept of information being transmitted to individuals without their consent or awareness is interrelated with other subjects explored so far in The Orphan Conspiracies, especially mind control in chapter 2 and media manipulation in chapter 13.

Subliminal messaging – also known as subliminals – is nothing new. The technique has been around at least since the advent of radio and television.

Although there was great concern about subliminals when they first came to the mass public’s attention in the 1950’s, fears soon waned as experts assured all and sundry that the ever so subtle messages were relatively ineffective or else did not work at all.

By the late 20th Century, a whole host of scientific studies had concluded subliminals were not remotely effective.

Over the decades, however, there have been many groups in society who continued to maintain concerns over the wide usage of subliminals. Conspiracy theorists naturally expressed the greatest fears, but civil libertarians, media watchdogs and worried parents also raised issues.

Adding fuel to the whole debate is the fact that new science of the early 21st Century is also beginning to raise alarm bells regarding the influence and effectiveness of subliminals. It turns out the subtle method of advertising may be a little more persuasive on the mind than experts told us it was in the 20th Century.

Perhaps even a lot more persuasive…


“I saw a subliminal advertising executive, but only for a second.” –Steven Wright, American comedian


Concealed messages in ads

It’s no secret that advertisers and programmers have long inserted hidden messages that consumers receive unknowingly.

There are numerous well-known incidents of subliminals being used in media advertising. A CBS News article headed The 10 Best Subliminal Ads Ever Made (dated October 20, 2011) provides some interesting examples.

The known history of this advertising technique essentially began in 1957, when market researcher James Vicary inserted subliminal messages into screenings of a film at a movie theater in New Jersey. The subliminals instructed cinemagoers to eat popcorn and buy Coca-Cola. According to Vicary, sales for both Coke and popcorn went through the roof.

Vicary’s cinema experiment coincided withthe publication of Vance Packard’s bestselling book The Hidden Persuaders, which highlights subliminal tactics used by advertisers.

These developments prompted many others with an interest in influencing minds to begin researching this new technique. And so the subliminal movement was born.


According to their music teacher, the mind became like a sponge when listening to the symphonies of Mozart and other Baroque composers. Nine, however, suspected there were subliminal messages embedded in the music. Sometimes he thought he caught whispers of Naylor’s voice underneath the music and worried he was being brainwashed.The Orphan Factory


Should it be legal?

Subliminal messaging has been banned in some countries including the UK and Australia, but it remains legal in most countries.

Although legal in the US, subliminal messaging is frowned upon – officially at least. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) warns it will revoke any broadcaster’s licence where the use of subliminals is proven, and high profile American broadcasters and television networks pay lip service to the intent behind the FCC’s warning and to their expressed desire to protect listeners and viewers from subliminals.

Spot two happy diners in this Tortilla chips ad?

Since the 1950’s, numerous proposed laws to ban subliminal advertising have been introduced to the US Congress, but all have perished in committee without making it to the floor of either the House or Senate for a vote. Several states, including California, have at times discussed anti-subliminal advertising laws, but none have enacted those laws. The usual excuse given by lawmakers is that as research has failed to conclusively prove subliminal advertising is effective there’s no need to pass such laws.

There is a school of thought in America that there’s a conspiracy – in which the big corporations and ad agencies are key players – to convince the public that subliminal advertising doesn’t work.

Do subliminals work?

Spot the trees, birds and animals in this clever zoo ad.

Advertisers and others have gone to great lengths to assure us subliminals do not work, trotting out the results of “exhaustive studies,” “consumer poll results” and “extensive research” that point to the results of subliminal messaging being fairly ambiguous at best. One study quoted by Wikipedia claims “subliminal messages produce only one-tenth of the effects of detected messages”.

However, there is credible research that shows subliminal stimuli often sparks actions someone intended to perform. In other words, actions can be subliminally prompted if someone was already planning to carry out that action, but it will not force them to do something they weren’t already thinking of doing.

Conspiracy theorists go much further than that and often state or imply many or even most of our everyday actions are the result of subliminal messages we have seen or heard. They argue we receive so many subliminals throughout our lives that it has a cumulative effect which, when added up, amounts to mind control.

So there you have it: the two extremes. As is often the case, the truth may be somewhere in the middle. Or is it?

Many independent researchers have come to the shocking conclusion that we are being bombarded with so many subliminals every day it’s virtually impossible not to be influenced by them in some way.

And science may be beginning to support the claims of these researchers. For example, very recent studies involving functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have revealed that subliminals activate crucial regions of the brain including the hippocampus, the amygdala, the primary visual cortex and the insular cortex. These latest scientific studies directly contradict 20th Century research.

Spot the golfer and the Spartan warrior in this ad.

Our own research has revealed major corporations – in the US especially – are investing tens of millions of dollars into subliminal advertising each year. Some are even hiring subliminal experts to covertly influence consumers into buying their products and services.

Which begs the question: why do these corporations so frequently use subliminal advertising and spend so much of their precious marketing campaign budgets on it if they don’t believe it sways customers and boosts sales?

A similar question could be asked of politicians and political parties who attempt to sway voters with subliminal advertising. American voters have long been concerned about the incidence of such advertising on their television and computer screens leading up to elections.


Political manipulation

Often quoted is the television advertisement promoting George W. Bush during the 2000 election campaign. When a photo of his opponent, Vice President Al Gore, appeared on screen, a subliminal flashed across the screen with the word ‘RATS’. This has since been acknowledged as a purposeful subliminal insertion by the ad company and campaign managers responsible for the ad.

Al Gore

Al Gore (above) and the infamous RATS ad (below).

With media advertising per candidate in the US presidential elections now costing north of US$250 million, you can imagine how much television ads cost – even back in 2000. Whatever the actual cost of the subliminal component of the infamous George W. Bush ad, it was an expensive addition to spend on a technology that supposedly does not work.

Then again…who was it who won that election?

Subliminal researcher Martin Howard claims the US Government uses the underhand advertising technology as a way to mind control the American public.

In his 2005 book We Know What You Want: How They Change Your Mind, Howard states that by “using the universal tools fear, patriotism, and phrase repetition, these high flying spin doctors can easily sway the population. The most successful public relations campaigns aim to change public perception without our awareness of the campaign. They are typically launched by governments, institutions and countries who need to change their public image, restore their reputation or manipulate public opinion. There are PR firms today who advise dictatorships, dishonest politicians and corrupt industries to cover up environmental catastrophes and human rights violations.”

Product Details

The previously mentioned 1957 book The Hidden Persuaders, by Vance Packard, explores the manipulation techniques used to sway voters toward a certain political candidate. According to Packard, these techniques often include subliminal messages. The bestselling book also questions the morality of such techniques.

Product Details


Subliminal specialists

The little known individuals who specialize in subliminal marketing and advertising are often referred to as either influence consultants or subliminal influencers. However, the former title is more common, perhaps because the word subliminal has bad connotations.

These specialists work in the field known as subliminal branding and are quietly employed by major corporations to create subliminally effective marketing campaigns for the mediums of television, radio and especially the Internet and social media. Or put another way, these penetrators of the subconscious insert subliminal messages into ads in ways known to strongly influence those who are exposed to them.

It all sounds quite similar to the 2010 sci-fi thriller Inception, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and was directed by Christopher Nolan. In the blockbuster film, DiCaprio’s character plants ideas into unsuspecting targets’ minds.

Primary image for Inception

The main difference between Inception and the real-world usage of subliminals is that the movie is about influencing the subconscious minds of people while they are asleep.

On the other hand, neuroscientists tell us the brain produces similar hypnotic brain waves when watching television, films or listening to music as it does when asleep. In other words, it is in a highly suggestible state and is wide open for influencing, or some would say for manipulating.

There’s one final point worth mentioning regarding the high-flying influence consultants hired by multinational corporations. Whilst researching them, we noticed an intriguing and perhaps disturbing theme: most either had an employment history in the hypnosis, brain wave entrainment or mind control fields, or else had strong interests that often bordered on fixations with these subjects.

It appears these masters of subliminal science may have a little too much in common with the likes of the psychiatrists and scientists who formulated MK-Ultra and other insidious mind control programs.


Subliminals, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll

Of course, subliminal messages are not just visual. They’ve traditionally been inserted into radio broadcasts and even into pop music.

Pop and rock bands have been known to use something called Reverse Speech, which is another form of subliminals. It involves infusing subliminal messages into songs, often contradicting the song’s apparent message.


The Beatles…accused of using reverse speech in their lyrics.

The Beatles and U2 have both been accused of using reverse speech in the lyrics of their songs. However, it was British band Judas Priest – renowned as one of the best heavy metal bands of all time – who hit the headlines when, in 1990, they were taken to court by parents who claimed the band had inserted evil subliminal messages in albums and songs, negatively influencing their children toward destructive behavior. The parents of one of two young men involved in a suicide pact alleged the Judas Priest song‘Better By You, Better Than Me’, from the ‘Stained Glass’ album, contained the subliminal command “Do it” that triggered their son’s suicide attempt.

British band Judas Priest…also accused.

At trial’s end, the ruling was the so-called command was in fact an accident resulting from the wrong background lyrics being used.



Perhaps the widest current use of subliminals is found in children’s television shows, including animation programs.

Opponents of subliminals have long been critical of the amount of sex and violence secretly contained in children’s cartoons. Some well publicized instances – such as the subliminal insertion of the word ‘SEX’ in the movie, The Lion King, and similar subliminal messages in Disney films – have been satisfactorily explained as mistakes or coincidences. Others have been quite deliberate – such as the case of one Ken Sobel, a New Yorker who was viewing a videotaped episode of the animated series Alf when something made him freeze the screen. What he saw disturbed him.

That scene from The Lion King.

Across the screen, in front of images of the Statue of Liberty and the American flag, was the word ‘AMERICA’ in large letters. It occupied precisely one frame – too fast for the average person to see if played at normal speed, but not too fast for Mr. Sobel who had the presence of mind to freeze-frame it at that crucial point.

A subsequent NBC investigation into the incident resulted in the series’ animators admitting to deliberately inserting the image in the cartoon. Their admission didn’t stop there. The same animators admitted to placing other images in their cartoons.

Not even Lady Liberty could escape the subliminal messaging predators.

That there are many other examples of such indiscretions is alarming given young minds are so impressionable and easily manipulated. Few would disagree that children’s cartoons, films, videos and television series should be free of anything resembling subliminals. Unfortunately, we live in an age where the mighty dollar comes ahead of such considerations.

Incidentally, although NBC and most of their competitor networks publicly condemn subliminal messages in advertising, none appear to monitor their ads to ensure they’re subliminal-free. Nor do their policies make mention of subliminals in their on-air programs.


New frontiers

Online media has led to a proliferation of subliminal messages. Subliminals are tailor-made for insertion into video and even online text and animation – and there’s little or no legislator oversight.

And when you consider the worldwide explosion of screens with video game machines, computer tablets, ATM machines, smart phones and wearable technology devices like Google Glass, you start to get the idea how many possibilities there are for subliminal ad predators to take advantage of.

File:Google Glass Explorer Edition.jpeg

Wearable optical display glasses like Google Glass another target for predators.


“Advertising, music, atmospheres, subliminal messages and films can have an impact on our emotional life, and we cannot control it because we are not even conscious of it.” –Tariq Ramadan, The Quest for Meaning: Developing a Philosophy of Pluralism.


In recent years, with the evolution of the Internet, including video sites and social media, the Tinfoil Hat Network has gone into overdrive with conspiracy theories surrounding subliminals. They claim subliminal messages are used by the Illuminati via their mind controlled Project Monarch music artists to lead the world into an era of Satanism that will in turn lead to a global Apocalypse.

If nothing else, Tinfoil Hatters are always sensationalists. No matter where they conjure up their outlandish conspiracies, be it in their local asylum or in their mother’s basement, they never fail to shock. Ya gotta give ‘em that – and ya gotta love ‘em!


Read more in The Orphan Conspiracies: 29 Conspiracy Theories from The Orphan Trilogy – available now via Amazon at:

A book that’s for the common people.


Happy reading! –James & Lance






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