The Craziest Subliminal Ads

  • Hidden Messages in Your Favorite Products

    Subliminal ads are kind of like UFOs. Many people claim to have seen them, but few are 100% sure. When first created more than a half-century ago, some feared that these ads would be a way to brainwash consumers, but years later, people are still unsure whether they even work. Every year, new studies come out with contradicting conclusions. If they do work, one study argues, it’s only when you’re really paying close attention to the ads; otherwise the hidden messages remain hidden. A new software product in the U.K. believes in the power of the subliminal and promises to help consumers subliminally give themselves affirmations throughout the day. The software flashes a series of different affirmations on a PC screen to help viewers quit smoking, increase their memory or help learn more effectively. For now, the use of these ads has been banned in countries like Britain and Australia. But in the U.S., they exist in a legal gray area. The Federal Trade Commission’s Web site refers to these ads as “deceptive,” but adds the line “most consumer behavior experts have concluded that such methods aren’t effective.” Before you start clicking through, remember that some of the advertisements we are linking to contain some explicit images. They’re all drawings, no photographs, but consider yourself warned. Here is our collection of the most extreme subliminal ads from around the Web. You decide if they’re real. Photo Credit: LiveFromAmsterdam
    Popcorn Flick
  • Popcorn Flick

    The earliest example of subliminal advertising was by James Vicary, an American market researcher who first coined the phrase subliminal ads, in the late 1950's. In an attempt to prove the theory, he tried to sell popcorn in the movie theatre by inserting a message into a movie. The words “Hungry? Eat Popcorn” flashed on the screen during the movie Picnic. It may sound silly, but when a command flashes near a picture of Kim Novak, you have little choice but to obey. Photo Credit: Alex Witherspoon
    Are You A Woodworker Or Just Happy to See Me?
  • Are You A Woodworker Or Just Happy to See Me?

    One of the more famous examples is a newspaper ad for the D.J. Flooring company, promoting their services like repairing and carpeting your home. The words are slightly overshadowed by a drawing of a woman holding a wine glass beneath the ad’s headline, “Laid By the Best.” That would be sexual enough, but when you turn the ad upside down, you see the woman is getting too much pleasure from the thought of her new carpet. CAUTION: The upside-down image may be too much for some viewers. Photo Credit: Todd Huffman
  • Cigarettes

    Cigarettes often push subtle messages of sex and virility, but some believe they’ve gone too far. One old Marlboro billboard showed an open road and large rock formations all around. There were no pictures of people smoking or cigarettes; just the landscape and slogan, “Big, Isn’t It.” Another ad for Camel seems harmless at first. It’s just a drawing of the company’s namesake, but take a long look at the camel’s front leg and you may be able to make out the profile of a naked man. Another CAUTION on this one (if you can see it at all).Photo Credit: pyrator
    Ice Cubes Are Hotter Than You Think
  • Ice Cubes Are Hotter Than You Think

    More than any other item, ice cubes are used to link products with sexual thoughts.  Gibley’s Gin famously used this method. Can you spot the word “sex” written on the ice cubes? For another example of seductive ice cubes, check out the next item on the list. Photo Credit: mil8
    Coca Cola
  • Coca Cola

    With the exception of cigarette companies, Coke seems to use subliminal ads the most.  In the 1980s, thousands of posters were released in Australia, showing a bottle of coke resting on a pile of ice, with the slogan “Feel the Curves!!” above it. Again, this would be bad enough, but when you zoom in on the ice cubes, you can see a woman performing a sex act. WARNING: This one is another image that might be too much for some viewers. For other subversive Coke ads, check out Photo Credit: peepo tolentino
    Pepsi Isn't Much Better
  • Pepsi Isn't Much Better

    In the summer of 1990, Pepsi issued a special series of cans as part of a promotional campaign. However, when consumers stacked the cans on top of one another, they saw the cans spelled out the word Sex. That may sound far-fetched, but it’s nothing compared to Pepsi’s newest so-called subliminal ad. According to, newly designed Pepsi cans (see picture) are actually advertising a warning to President Obama. How? Read the side of that can backwards and the message says, “O is ded.”Photo Credit: The Upstairs Room
    Sexy Mayo
  • Sexy Mayo

    Those are two words I never thought I’d put together. But according to an article in Parade, a larger mayonnaise manufacturer once tested two containers of diet mayonnaise among women. The taste of the mayo was identical in both, but the shape of one of the containers connected more with the women’s desired self-image.  From the article: “The first was narrow around the middle and thicker at the top and on the bottom. The second had a slender neck that tapered down into a fat bottom, like a genie bottle. When asked which product they preferred, every single subject--all diet-conscious women--selected the first bottle without even having tasted the stuff.” Photo Credit: yaraaa
    Fast Food
  • Fast Food

    I’ve never thought of a burger as sexy, but if the woman in that picture does, then I’ll eat four. And last year, Consumerist reported on a KFC ad that showed dollars bills hidden in the lettuce of a sandwich. Photo Credit: Giant Ideas
  • Skittles

    Yes, even Skittles aren’t as wholesome as you thought. On one French pack of Berry Explosion, a skittle (marked with the traditional letter S) lands in front of the word Explosion. You can spell it out for yourself. Photo Credit: :: Suwaif ::
    Silence of the Lambs
  • Silence of the Lambs

    You may think Silence of the Lambs would be the last place in the world to throw in something sexy, but if you zoom in on the movie poster pictured here, you’ll see there are some naked ladies hiding out in that skull. Again, a warning on the zoomed-in image!Photo Credit:
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