Are Subliminal Messages Used in Advertising?

The main meaning of subliminal is any sort of hidden message inside a main message. In this sense yes, advertisers do hide some other message inside the main one. You can even call it a normal advertising practice that anyone uses. Advertising agencies receive money to craft a specific message: "buy it." And we know that it is not effective to simply tell us of some benefits of a product. They rely basically on emotional aspects and reinforcement principles of the consumers.

They may even sometimes use some sort of subliminal priming in a more technical sense, as a simple influence on our feelings towards a product. This seems to be rare, and way less effective.

Advertisers "hide" their messages using in a number of different approaches, by developing a simple nonverbal story into their ads. This story is meant to have some sort of meaningful or inspiring message to the target recipients of the message. One of the most trivial and most effective techniques is to construct a relationship between people in some scene, where their non-verbal communication gives a positive impression carefully constructed to have an impact that will make the audience remeber the product.

Effective and common advertising techniques are able to combine emotion and reason for a higher persuasive message. The emotional aspects are not explicitly noticeable. That's actually the hidden message.

This is not far from from the way artists, photographers, and authors construct their messages for higher impact, except that more resources and effort goes into developing a powerful message. The message produces a particular action, not just a general good feeling. The symbolic, the perceptible, and the imperceptible, are combined to produce a lasting imprint on the audience.

But, does it work? It is a common exercise to compare generic, mainly informational messages with others produced by skilled communicators to appeal to our feeling and unconscious desires. Of course it may work. Not always exactly as the advertisers would like, and sometimes it even can backfire, however there is not any doubt that preferences can be manipulated by manipulating images.

We might extended this a bit further by using embedded pictures or messages flashed on the screen at a fraction of a second, however it isn't completely clear that hidden messages would make the ads more effective.

In ads where a sparingly clad model is winking seductively, does it matter whether the words "sex appeal" is concealed or not in a tiny picture near her facer? The impact of carefully constructed messages and aesthetic features is "hidden in plain sight," not just hidden from sight.

Some messages constructed by advertisers are intended to inspire powerful primitive drives. They hope to associate those primitive drives with the product.
They can (though not always) reach the desired response, however to make sure it is associated with their product is somehow more tricky. This is the point where the "subliminal" techniques backfire, just as simple messages can backfire too.

What about flashed messages on a screen and other cognitive tools for delivering subconscious messages? Modern technology makes it difficult to completely hide such messages, however it may soon become possible, and the uses of tachistoscopic like "drink coke, eat popcorn" may again be used.

Various techniques are implemented in movie editing, although their influence beyond subtle emotional effects (more o less like music is used to influence emotion) is widely questionable.

It is also conceivable that someone could come up with a subliminal audio technology that works through widely available media, although no such technology appears to be available yet, as far as any published scientific literature reveals.