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Back in the late 1950’s it was widely reported that marketing guru James Vicary flashed “Eat Popcorn”and “Drink Coca-Cola” subliminal messages on single frames in a Fort Lee, New Jersey movie theatre in 1957.
He claimed an 18.1% increase in Coke sales and a 57.8% increase in popcorn sales in the cinema kiosk that night. The media loved the story. It spread like wild fire and no doubt helped Vicary’s struggling marketing business. However, the FCC and research psychologists were sceptical. In 1962 Vicary admitted the hoax in the ‘Advertising Age’. Yet, it is repeated as fact on many web sites and publications to this day.
Truth is James Vicary made it all up. However, it got research psychologists thinking. As a result, several studies, such as the “Lipton Ice Tea ” experiment concluded that “although Vicary’s advertising techniques appear to have existed only in Vicary’s fantasies, if certain conditions are taken into account (such as opportunity and intent) his fantasies may indeed become reality.”