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Marcin Sochacki (Wanted) Blog, Internet, Technology

» McDonald's: subliminal or viral marketing?

OK, this is pretty old, but I just happened to stumble upon this. On January 27th, 2007 the American TV station Food Network during their regular program shown just one frame with McDonald's logo.

Many people noticed that, the recording is posted below:

Most comments, including the recording's author and numerous blog posts suggest that McDonald's employed subliminal marketing here. Many people think that showing an ad for a very short, unnoticeable period of time will unconsciously affect our preferences, e.g. after we leave a cinema. Related law regulations in many countries forbid this form od advertising. In fact, there is no convincing proof that subliminal messages work at all. An often quoted experiment by James Vicary in 1957 was in fact fake. Food Network claimed that it was simply a “technical error”. Was that really the case or do we have hidden viral advertising here? Too often “technical errors” are blamed for something, which is difficult to admit.

First of all, the McDonald's subliminal message theory is very unlikely for a few reasons:

  1. It's not known, if the phenomenon works at all.
  2. The shortest possible length of emission is 1/60th of a second, which is long enough for most people to see the odd frame (this contradicts the definition of subliminal message, which should be invisible).
  3. It would be very risky to put oneself into huge legal problems, because FCC forbids subliminal advertising in the USA.

How about viral marketing? The purpose of it is to arouse interest among viewers with something non-typical and using them to willingly spread the word. It is very effective, cheap but also quite risky. If the marketing plan is too obvious, Internet surfers will find it disgusting and generate a lot of negative PR, making the management fall into despair.

In this case, viral marketing – conscious or just the result of technical mistake – worked fine. There are many articles on the net, including the one you're reading now, which talk about the subject, including McDonald's name and logo. It is clearly visible when you google for [food network subliminal mcdonald] and find more than 600 000 results. Everyone tries to analyse the video frame by frame and writes kilobytes of text about McDonald. So let me finish now, cause I'm starting to feel the urge for a Big Mac.

2007/09/20 20:39 | media/ad/

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