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back to article Urban legend nips iiNet 'subliminal' campaign

Australian ISP iiNet has pulled a TV advertising campaign after its two-frame “Easter egg” fell foul of this country’s advertising rules. The ISP’s idea would probably win awards rather than criticism in a less po-faced country: once news escaped about the Easter Egg, thousands of viewers reversed their normal TV ad-watching …

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Silver badge

I have to disagree this time, Richard

That law is one of the very few in this country that actually makes sense. While the idea of influencing people by 1-frame "subliminal" messages specifically has been discredited, the principle behind the law is valid, given the mind-controlling sociopathic mentality of the advertising industry. As you point out, the key point is outlawing "attempts to convey information to the viewer by transmitting messages below or near the threshold of normal awareness".

In other words, the advertising industry is not allowed to use ANY form of consciousness-bypassing techniques to try to make the viewer want something they normally might not want. Considering that the raison d'etre of the advertising industry is to get inside our heads and psychologically manipulate us into buying useless tat, this law is based on sound principles.

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It makes sense

as long as you base it on shonky pseudo-science, so I'd say it's pretty normal for a law in Austfailia.

If the advertising industry really was constrained from not using consciousness-bypassing techniques, there would be NO advertising whatsoever! So again the law is an enormous fail, as I still see advertising everywhere.

I just sat for 40 mins in a doctor's waiting room being visually & audibly insulted by Ch.9 on the television (I still don't have a TV-B-Gone - is there an iPhone app for it?) - pretty much everything on screen at all times was either an ad, a morning 'variety' show segment which was actually an ad (the voices even still in Merkin accents!) or corporate propaganda about how wonderful horseracing is and how I should aspire to be a hat-wearing plonker at the Melbourne Cup (that segment was jokingly called 'news').

So Steve, the law fails, badly, but that is typical of Austfailia, or Murdochia or Packeria or whoever owns our Guvmint this week.

PS. This rant comes to you courtesy of my ISP.... iiNet!

PPS. If you are from overseas, don't come here. Austfailia sucks.

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What kind of dunderhead wouldn't expect to get pinged for this?

Gotta agree with Steven on this one...the fact that they even tried it means their marketeers either don't know the law for advertising standards or just don't care...In either case, the ad should have been pulled.

And if I saw a flicker that made me spend 15 minutes slow scrolling a bunch of ads just to find some swarmy false-freindly piss-in-your-pocket adhype I'd be pretty annoyed.

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Trollface

"I still don't have a TV-B-Gone - is there an iPhone app for it?"

If only there were some way to spread information about the availability of commercial products to people in waiting rooms. Perhaps some sort of illuminated, wall-mounted box that carried pictures of the specific products every few minutes. The box could get data sent OTA from a central server of some kind. You could show amusing little skits between the promotional pictures so that people were more likely to pay attention. Do you know, I think this idea could really take off!

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Paris Hilton

In other words, the advertising industry is not allowed to use

ANY form of consciousness-bypassing techniques to try to make

the viewer want something they normally might not want

So using semi-naked women to sell deodorant to men is banned, right?

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Silver badge

"In other words, the advertising industry is not allowed to use ANY form of consciousness-bypassing techniques"

Adverts themselves bypass my consciousness.

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Paris Hilton

Interesting...

Because the last time this came up in Oz, the government regulator decided a single frame wasn't below the threshold for awareness. Coupled with the fact that, according to the Free TV Australia guidelines at the time, an ad wasn't an ad unless it covered the full screen, that meant that:

a) a 1-frame ad couldn't be subliminal, and

b) a 1-field (1/2 a frame) ad - which might be subliminal - wasn't an ad.

BTW, Free TV Australia isn't a government regulator - it's the TV industry lobby group. Which writes its own standards for advertising, content, scheduling, etc, which the government regulator ACMA duly rubber-stamps. Something about foxes and henhouses comes to mind...

Paris, because she's one of the few things more screwed up than Australia's media regulations...

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Anonymous Coward

Fuck the science

Is el Reg running a sideline as apologist for the ad industry these days? I couldn't give a rats arse (in this context at least) whether the ban on such ads is supported or not by the science. I do know I'm frigging sick of adverts, the advertising industry, its tedious little chummy I'm yer best mate look-how-clever-we-are eye candy tactics ploy while trying to pass itself off as "culture" to get a "debate" going and its continual lobbying to be allowed to rifle our personal information and browsing habits as a divine right.

Above all I detest the "double win" where you create a supposedly 'edgy' ad expressly to get banned so you can pick up a bit more brand kudos from the ensuing debate about whether or not it should have been banned - boy does that moisten trousers at the weekly meeting. This grates so badly because it removes the ad from the nice sanitised spaces between the short bits of TV programme or ABP nukeable web page elements and moves its 'message' into the less avoidable bits such as the editorial (too strong in the case of this article) where supposedly wily and impartial journalists hand out free exposure like a coke whore dishing out lines at an ad biz party.

I like your articles as a rule, Richard, but stick to the facts next time rather than advocating to put more tools into the arsenal of a thoroughly detestable industry.

To summarise: ad industry - FOAD. Quickly would be good.

/rant

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Facepalm

"Above all I detest the "double win" where you create a supposedly 'edgy' ad expressly to get banned so you can pick up a bit more brand kudos from the ensuing debate about whether or not it should have been banned"

Well done on contributing to the debate and furthering the advertiser's cause :-)

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Same rules exist in the UK

The UK has the same rules on advertising that were introduced after a lot of hysteria over subliminal messages. Pretty sure the advertises knew what they were doing when they pulled this stunt.

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Bronze badge

MPEG compression

On a technical note, surely there aren't enough I-frames (key frames) in the compressed stream to do this? You'd need a two key frames practically next to each other - one for the transition to the subliminal message, and one for the transition back to the main ad. The transitions would have left artefacts in subsequent frames, thus making it stand out more.

I'm assuming most people in Australia receive their TV signal in digital form. If they're still on analogue then this doesn't apply.

@Wombling_Free - Yeah, I hear it's so bad that nobody ever comes back.

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If the MPEG encoder uses an I-Frame every time a shot change is detected, then the subliminal frame would have an I-Frame and so would the first frame of the "proper" content, so it could work.

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It should be banned

You make the claim, "If iiNet had decided instead to flog a dodgy weight-loss cure, the ads would still be airing..." etc. What is that statement based on? I don't know what the British tendencies are in this regard but here across the pond I think we would pretty uniformly try to squash any such use of this technique. And I'm glad about that. I don't know about you; I don't trust the government very much, but I trust advertisers far less.

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Missing the key word...

..."instead" i.e. if their adverts had been selling dodgy unproven diet pill bollocks they would still be on while selling a legitimate product with an undodgy method is forbidden.

Of course, anyone with strong views on the mispromotion of dodgy diet pills in NSW should contact Jamie Parker, the Green MP who used to sell dodgy diet pills that were promoted in a dodgy way by his company: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/state-election-2011/snake-oil-and-the-battle-for-balmain-20110305-1bipr.html

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I'm more worried about the X-files comment

I mean, us geeks all think it's a documentary, don't we?

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Stop

I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but subliminal advertising is permitted in Australia.

The reson for this is that under Clauses 1.9 and 1.9.4 of the 2010 Commercial Television Code of Practice:

1.9 A licensee may not broadcast a program, program promotion, station identification or community service announcement which is likely, in all the circumstances, to:

1.9.4 Use or involve any technique which attempts to convey information to the viewer by transmitting messages below or near the threshold of normal awareness;

there is no mention of advertising.

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