James Vicary was a market researcher, best known for popularizing the notion of subliminal advertising in 1957. He used a movie theatre in Fort Lee, New Jersey he tested subliminal messaging on over 45,000 movie goers over a 6 week period. While the patrons watched a movie (called Picnic) Vicary displayed 2 subliminal messages – ‘Eat Popcorn’ and ‘Drink Coca-Cola’. The messages were text based subliminal messages and were displayed much faster than the human eye can see – they flashed on the screen for 3/1000s of 1 second – and they were displayed once every 5 seconds. Results were taken by comparing the current 6 weeks sales of Coca Cola and popcorn to sales figures from the previous 6 weeks. The difference was phenomenal:
Popcorn sales had risen by 57%
Coca Cola sales rose by 18.1%
These figures suprised even Vicary himself. At the time the findings caused somewhat of a hysteria, further research started to be done into the influence of subliminal messages, and they were soon banned from being used within advertisements. However no detailed study of his findings was released and no independent evidence turned up to support his claim. Eventually, in 1962, Vicary admitted that the original study was fabricated.
Khaled Sanadzadeh recalls an interesting story of unnoticed musical subversion in the 1980s – ‘The strange case of Western electronica and psychadelia being beamed out into every home across Iran at it’s most anti-western extreme’. It was the 1980s. Iran was at war with Iraq. Officials were encouraging youths to go to the front defending their country. Residents of Iran dealt with planes that were dropping bombs on them. These bombs were made in the USA and the chemical ones were from West Germany. Iranians had strong revolutionary feelings. They had denied westernization just few years before that. In such a situation, to endorse the West and its culture was an unforgivable sin. However, somewhere at the heart of the anti-West propaganda machine, Iranian TV and radio, weird happenings were taking place.’
‘For a long time, no singer appeared on Iranian TV or sang on the radio. They always used instrumental music in between or at the beginning of their programmes. In the mornings, there were educational programmes about physics, chemistry and biology. The afternoon was the time of war-propaganda and soldiers’ happy faces going to fight with an evil creature called Saddam Hussein were shown. At night, it was the news and stories of successes of Iranian army. Since Mozart and Beethoven’s pieces did not fit these subjects, and people were fed up with Iranian traditional music, they opted to utilize other things; electronic and ambient tunes… There was a programme called ‘The Analysis of the Week’s Politics’ on Iranian TV and they occasionally talked about Germany and France helping Iraq in the war. The sound themes were works of Klaus Shulze and Jean Michel Jarre!’