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Strategic Management - Subliminal Advertising

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1.0 Introduction

Subliminal Advertising has been one of the most enthralling features of the marketing industry since the 1950s as well as a rather controversial issue where much attention was gained in the industry for its legality. It is known as a marketing tactic where advertisers tap into the vulnerabilities surrounding consumers' unconscious mind, manipulating and controlling them in many ways.

The word 'subliminal' means "below the threshold of conscious perception or in a simple term, subconscious . Through the utilization of subliminal messages or stimuli in advertisements, it may influence an individual's subconscious mind and leading to in attitude and behavioral alteration . Subliminal messages or stimulus can appear in the several forms through different medium, such as, images flashing extremely fast on a screen, in pictures within pictures, in themes, words or sounds and it can be found in print, audio and video advertising media.

In a psychology perspective, every individual differs in their conscious level and thus perceived things differently. Thus, due to the subjective nature of subliminal perception, the subliminal messages employed in an advertisement would not be received by all . Owing to this reason, it has contributed to the fact that there isn't adequate evidence to proof the existence and effectiveness of subliminal advertising in affecting consumer behavior and perception which directly affects its legality.

In Australia, subliminal television advertising is prohibited under the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice, where it indicates that "any techniques which attempts to convey information to the viewer by transmitting messages below or near the threshold of normal awareness" is strictly forbidden . With subliminal advertising aiming to stimulate consumers in buying goods and services without them being aware of why they were motivated to do so, it falls as part of deceptive advertising. And for deceptive advertisings, it is regulated under Trade Practice Act 1974 section 52 where it prohibits deceptive or misleading conducts .

2.0 Precedent Cases

Television of New Zealand Ltd (TVNZ) v Bennett [2008]

In this case, the complainant Michael Bennett pointed out that the message "kill Yourself Now" was flashed during a TV show in a subliminal manner. He argued that the message suggests suicide might affect the children or teenagers in a negative way and thus breaching the standards of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice . However, the complaint was not upheld as the court justified it to be within the standard of the program, see for more details.

Newton-John v Scholl-Plough (Australia) Ltd [1986]

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