iiNet Ad Pulled For Subliminal Messaging

This recent ad from iiNet has been taken off the air after it was found to have breached the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice. I've seen this ad a couple of times now and I can't believe I never spotted this message. Don't worry if you can't read it — you'll find the full text after the break.

Wow. Impressive. You not only spotted this in our TV ad, you found a way to read it. That can't have been easy. This whole page only lasted two frames. That's less than one tenth of a second. Well done, sir or madam. We're going to reward your awesome pausing powers with a little gift. Type this link into your browser: And yes, you can tell your friends. But let's keep it to a minimum of a hundred, OK? And hey, watch for more two-frame freebies in our next TV campaign.

The link leads to this page. The limit of 100 entries appears to have already been met, however, you can still enter your details for a chance to win one of five iPads.

As for the message itself, there's nothing there to compel you to buy iiNet products or murder your neighbours, but it was enough to warrant a take-down by Free TV Australia. The Code of Practice states that information conveyed in a manner that is "below or near the threshold of normal awareness" is unacceptable.

ZDNet Australia got in touch with iiNet who, unsurprisingly, weren't out to brainwash viewers.

"We did it because we wanted to do things differently to how others are doing it," said iiNet's general manager of retail Matt Dunstan. "We did it because we believe in having fun and because we want to have real engagement with our customers, rather than just preaching to them via traditional, one-way advertising."

What's your take? Misunderstood marketing genius or the top of a slippery slope?

Video: iparanoidandroid/YouTube

[ZDNet Australia]



    Good idea, definitely something different (we think anyway, is there someone who goes through every ad frame by frame? lol)
    But fair enough for it to be taken down, still a breach.

    As a promotion it was good. As a televised advert that breaches the code, less so.

    It would have been better served on youtube which doesn't, as far as I know, have any standards (as the large number of crap videos implies) and is also somewhat harder to pause on a specific frame making it a little more of a challenge

    I thought that the whole subliminal advertising thing was proved not to work years ago. Why is it still in the code?

      im pretty sure it does work but you need something really simple, like a object which is easily identifiable

        Not really.

        According to Wikipedia (the source of all knowledge):
        "The near-consensus among research psychologists is that subliminal messages do not produce a powerful, enduring effect on behavior; and that laboratory research reveals little effect beyond a subtle, fleeting effect on thinking."
        - Subliminal Stimuli on Wikipedia

        Which, as far as I can tell, basically translates to people going "yeah, potatoes are awesome" if a potato flashed momentarily on their screen before they went merrily on their way.

      I seem to recall reading that the rapid flash can potentially set of seizures in people prone to them, I'd expect it to need more than one but I think it deserves to stay in the code because flickery things are so bloody irritating

      Of course it works.

      'Yvan eht Nioj'

        i suddenly have a strong urge to join a naval military division of some description... interesting

    But no one goes looking for ads on youtube, we're trying to block them at all cost (good pun)

    I think taking it down publically probaby gave the competition a huge boost, is it still running?
    I dont watch tv, but I do read gizmodo. Therefore I only know about the comp BECAUSE they took it down.

    @ Ozoneocean, you got to be kidding right? I mean advertising has been proven to work, why wouldn't subliminal? Id be interested to see yer proof.

      Advertising works, yes, but subliminal advertising doesn't. The idea that it does is a myth. Do any reading about it anywhere (serious stuff, not sensationalist rubbish). The reason advertising works is because you see it for long enough that it has a chance to engage your senses and imprint on your memory. If something flashes on too fast to see then you aren't aware of it long enough for it to make any impact what so ever.
      These are just simply physiological and psychological facts.

        SOme stuff about it here on Snopes-

    Yup, looks like the ban on the ad has worked thanks to the Streisend effect

    Isn't it a minimum of something like no less than 10 frames. I think that's what I recall from The Gruen Transfer when they discussed exactly this.

    Ether way this is a win for iiNet. They get their name out there to more people who other ways may not of heard of them.

    It's a blipvert from the 1980's TV show, Max Headroom (look it up).

    I think it's an excellent advertising concept! It's still going even though it's been taken down. ;) I entered the comp. :D

    subliminal advertising can work in many ways. for example in your favourite tv series, showing a fridge full of coke cans in the background of a scene as the main character walks into a coffee shop.

    perhaps they have altered the coke label slightly so that your eye's tell you there is something funny going on in that fridge and makes you think about it.

    i think the iinet campaign was brilliant.. i also don't watch TV so gizmodo is how i found out about it as well :)

    Ozoneocean , it depends on the content.
    I'm not saying subliminal advertising works or not, but you are underestimating the abilities of the human eyes and brain.

    "one study that is always brought up when this subject is talked about is the one that the Air Force conducted. In their study they put pilots in a dark room and flashed a picture, at 1/220th of a second, of a jet. Then they asked the pilots to properly identify what the plane was. The pilots were able to properly identify the jet each time."

    Text would be a stretch, but we can identify stuff alot quicker than you would have thought, right?

      Pilots HAVE to know what a jet looks like, they have intensive training to actively recognise the shapes of fighter jets from nothing more than their silhouettes, so using that as an example is extremely skewed- sort of like saying people can run 200m faster than 20 seconds because Usain Bolt has done it...
      Basically every study on subliminal advertising has proved it ineffectual.

        Subliminal in the sense of affecting a persons ability to know it had happened and affect them unknowingly is probably bs.

        But i bet there were plenty of people who seen the ad and turned to other people in the room and said "did you see that?" , "that ad had a block of text saying something flash in a white block!"

        Which would be the exact impact they were looking for.

        "If something flashes on too fast to see then you aren’t aware of it long enough for it to make any impact what so ever."

        25 fps isn't fast enough for you to not be aware it was there.You WILL see it.It's clearly not too fast to see.

        The single frames in the movie "13 Ghosts" from 2001 are quite shocking, and i can see them just fine, well enough indeed to scare the bejesus out of most ppl when they happen (just an example of very short frame bursts that ordinary ppl perceived easily and had a real effect on the audience indeed)

      It might've only been 1/220th of a second but based on the way the eyes work they would've been seeing it much longer, they were in a dark room, eyes would've been fully dialated, and I'd imagine they would've kept seeing the shape of the jet much like how when you look at something bright (like the sun) the image stays with you for a while afterwards.
      Not to mention the fact that their eyes and brains couldn't be distracted by anything else.

      Noticing the shape of something you're shown when you're ready for it and have no distractions is one thing, reading a block of text when the screen already had lots of stuff on it is another entirely.

    Well really it's been a success for there strategy. The add would have gone un-noticed by most, but now it received posting on several blogs for free.

    Subliminal advertising like this "does not work"! Plus, you would have to be blind to miss this poor attempt....

    I saw this when it was on, but couldn't find it in YouTube. Did make me hog and watch the ad on YouTube though.

    iinet got what they wanted. Mild controversy,a slap on the wrist and plenty of free conscious advertising! Perfect for them as they swallow may smaller competitors and become larger by the week! Well done everybody!

    I don't think it's any more a breach than any of the subtle marketing tactics that are "below or near the threshold of normal awareness". I'm no guru, but any episode of Gruen Transfer will show how advertisers ensure elements are in their ads that viewers are unaware of, but still affected by.

    I was one of the first the first hundred, scored myself 12 month free on iinet top plan plus free iPad. :)

    Studied marketing, and let me assured you, subliminal messages like that wont work, the only way subliminal messages would work is by association of brand, idea, things that we already know prior then the brain would "fill the gaps" which also depends on the context of it

    i.e. if i wrote sh*t in the context of heated discussion on forums, compared to sh*t in the contex of guns, our brains would "guess" whats the missing letter is.

      Well, my brain definitely filled in the missing 't' in the second contexT. :)

    Is this really subliminal messaging? They obviously showed the image long enough such that viewers can consciously think "wait what was that box?", and the message itself is clearly tailored to viewers pausing on it to read it and follow the link, and doesn't just say "BUY ME BUY ME BUY ME BUY ME".

    How is that at all like traditional "BUY ME" subliminal messaging???

    I like it. Now people will LOOK for it.

    Good strategy, shame about the nanny police!

    If you can subliminally capture that amount of text in the time they've given and be affected by it in any way, then you're some kind of mutant genius.

    Personally, I think if they want to be creative, they should try to make their efforts a little more cryptic. Like the way Valve did with Portal and Portal 2; hide clues and hints that people can follow to make it more into an interactive game.
    That would get a lot more of the right kind of attention instead of bad publicity.

    What did the first 100 get?

      From what i've heard, free 12 months on iiNet's top plan (unlimited ADSL2+, i assume), plus the chance to win a free iPad 2.

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