Subliminal Advertising: KFC Wants You To Think There's Money In Your Sandwich

Subliminal messages in advertising has been a controversial topic for years. Is it underhanded? Does it even work? Reader “umlaut75″ sent us a video of a KFC Snacker television commercial that shows a mysterious tiny picture of a dollar bill mixed in with the lettuce. As far as intrigue is concerned, it’s not exactly the Zapruder film but it does make us wonder. The video, inside…

At approximately 30 seconds in:

Most people seem to consider the effects of subliminal advertising negligible at best. For one thing, the guy “discovered” it actually made the whole thing up as a gimmick to get more business for his marketing research company. However, according to Wikipedia, “A study conducted by the United Nations concluded that “the cultural implications of subliminal indoctrination is a major threat to human rights throughout the world.” Do you think there is a threat? Could it be possible?

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  1. henwy says:

    A buck for a cluck. Now that’s just cool.

  2. Anonymous says:

    MUST EAT SNACKER! MUST EAT MONEY!!

  3. punkrawka says:

    Hasn’t the UN also repeatedly said that we should all have died years ago from catastrophic climate change?

  4. kspray-dad says:

    Well…at least it isn’t rat in there.

  5. henrygates says:

    Funny! A dollar hidden in a 99 cent sandwich. I don’t think this is so much subliminal advertising as just a (rather obvious) easter egg and clever marketing idea. Obviously it worked since the commercial is being posted to the interwebs!

  6. Balisong says:

    Hasn’t it been proven that subliminal advertising doesn’t work? Since your eyes and brain can’t process such things.

  7. kspray-dad says:

    Oh…and do I get a penny back strapped to some fries or something?

  8. joshthephenom says:

    I love subliminal advertising. I took a history of mass media class during undergrad and we spent a week on it. My favorite is Photoshopping ice in alcohol ads to take on characteristics of skulls, thus triggering your depressive side and wanting to drink. Good stuff.

  9. JanetCarol says:

    Money is dirty. Money is in KFC. KFC IS DIRTY!!!!

  10. umbriago says:

    For some reason I feel like turning over to ESPN, also. Odd.

  11. AD8BC says:

    That’s Sweet! Without the arrow I would have never seen that.

  12. @punkrawka: I don’t know about you, but I’m growing gills, have webs between my toes, and I’m sailing around fighting “smokers” on a catamaran…

  13. kspray-dad says:

    1. Chicken
    2. Bun
    3. ????
    4. Profit

  14. 44 in a Row says:

    Hasn’t it been proven that subliminal advertising doesn’t work? Since your eyes and brain can’t process such things.

    They’ve never really proven that it “doesn’t” work, as much as they’ve never proven that it does. There’s one study that showed it to work — the study the whole field is based on, where James Vicary put up subliminal messages like “Drink Coke” during a movie, and claimed that sales went up. The only problem was that he later admitted to falsifying all the results.

  15. kspray-dad says:

    I have a sign in my office in 8pt font that tells people to F**K OFF AND DIE. As far as I know, it doesn’t work.

  16. In a related note, Kevin Nealon is the advertising executive behind this campaign.

  17. villaged says:

    You know, this was probably an editor having fun. I knew a guy at an ABC affiliate who placed messages in the news swooshes (you know, those stupid graphic sweeps they do when they cut to a different shot). Stupid stuff like, “Call your mother”, “Drink more milk”. They were in there for quite awhile before anyone noticed.

    Probably the same thing here.

  18. Toof_75_75 says:

    I’ve noticed that every time I’ve seen the commercial. It has never really made me want one of those sandwiches, though…

    1. Lettuce/Dollar
    2. ????
    3. Profit

  19. RobinB says:

    Mmmm, adds fiber.

  20. mantene says:

    My friend has pointed out that this is actually old news – [www.yumsugar.com]

  21. Balisong says:

    @janetcarol: That’s actually pretty close to my line of thought on this :D Money has fecal matter on it…I don’t want one of these sammitches!

  22. Lambasted says:

    Maybe it’s just the one near me but I think KFC tastes horrible. No amount of subliminal anything is going to entice me to want to eat it. KFC should serve good food and they wouldn’t have to resort to shameless tactics for people to eat it. Besides, seeing a dollar only reminds me to go to the bank not to eat a chicken sandwich.

  23. Jozef says:

    I’ve seen a commercial of a woman eating a five dollar bill. Don’t remember what product or company was being advertised, but someone has already upped the ante on KFC…

  24. @Jozef: Quiznos

  25. Pigmann says:

    I hate the way the actors hold those tiny sandwiches with both hands to make them appear bigger. Drives me crazy every time I see that commercial for some reason.

  26. Kmoney says:

    I saw that in the commerical and thought it was stupid. back to the drawing board, kfc…

  27. arras says:

    KFC will begin using a 3-pronged approach to advertising their KFC snackers. The liminal, the subliminal and the superliminal.

    The superliminal you ask?

    ‘Hey you, buy a KFC snacker!’

  28. hubris says:

    @umbriago: lol, yeah, that as is all over ESPN, which is almost all I watch these days.

    I noticed that dollar a while ago. Thought it was rather odd.

  29. Angryrider says:

    Dang, I never noticed. I only eat them ’cause they’re chicken sandwiches…

  30. hubris says:

    @hubris: Grr.. *ad

  31. puffyshirt says:

    dollars are tasty! mmm nom nom nom

  32. sir_eccles says:

    It isn’t a dollar, it’s JESUS. All praise the holy hamburger!

    SMOKE!

    Maybe they can auction it on ebay to that casino place?

    SMOKE!

    They can display it next to the fried cheese Virgin Mary.

    ARE YOU SMOKING YET?

  33. JPropaganda says:

    actually this is part of a promotion where if you go online and tell them what the “code” is, you can get a free snacker or other prizes. This has been around since march, so a little old news. The other good news is that subliminsal advertising in no way works.

    [www.associatedcontent.com]

  34. design_chick says:

    At the beginning of the ad they talk about how you can turn your dollar into a KFC snacker….

  35. JPropaganda says:

    @JPropaganda: I forgot to mention that the whole promotion was aimed at people who zip through their commercials, this way people would go back and start looking for the “hidden message.”

    The promotion isnt running anymore, is this commercial actually still on?

  36. geeky_reader says:

    “I love Zack Morris”.

  37. Elle Menopi says:

    I can’t help but think that that dollar has been wedged in some stripper’s g-string at some point.

    Gak!

  38. musitron says:

    @44 in a Row:

    You can’t prove a negative. My favorite example is from Penn Jillette: “Prove I don’t have a dead hooker in the trunk of my car. How about now?… How about now?…”

    Not being able to prove something works means the default position is it doesn’t work, until evidence comes along to prove it works.

    [en.wikipedia.org]
    [en.wikipedia.org]

  39. BloggyMcBlogBlog says:

    They’re just copying the Quizno’s commercials where people actually eat $5 bills.

    /stupiest commercial ever

  40. JPropaganda says:

    Also, to anyone that thinks subliminal advertising is real…know your consumerist, fool.

    [consumerist.com]

  41. @JPropaganda: Yes it is still on, saw it yesterday.

  42. JPropaganda says:

    @BloggyMcBlogBlog: hahahaha. This was way before that quizno’s commercial. Came out in february.

  43. JPropaganda says:

    @umlaut75: Then KFC’s ad agency/media company have some explaining to do, cuz they effed up. This promotion is over and therefore the commercial shouldnt be running anymore.

    Also…I, for one, never actually received my $1 gift card….

  44. Dave on bass says:

    @arras: Speaking of “superliminal” – seriously, doesn’t anybody else wish that commercials were more like they were in the earlier days of mass media – or even like they were in old newspapers? You know, “Hi, I’m from XYZ company. This is our product. We think it’s pretty great, and think you might find it appealing or useful. Please check it out, and buy it if you like it. Thank you.”

    Hell, I’m only 31, but I’d LOVE that kind of format in commercials.

    …..And now I suddenly need a chicken sandwich the size of a dinner roll.

  45. Dustin says:

    However, according to Wikipedia, “A study conducted by the United Nations concluded that “the cultural implications of subliminal indoctrination is a major threat to human rights throughout the world.”

    While this may be true, the part of the Wikipedia article mentioned cites a book: [www.amazon.com]
    that, after looking, I can only find a couple references to and that does not seem that trustworthy. Consider me skeptical about this.

  46. JPropaganda says:

    @jammadave: I don’t. Maybe because I write advertising and I’m selfish, but I definitely dont want those boring old timey commercials.

    If you do, watch more local TV

  47. OK, this is personal experience, and I have conducted this study in many different environments, and can say it’s true. When I worked in a cash room, you would occasionally get corners on bills that were barely holding on, or that fell off. I found that if you took that corner, and placed it somewhere and had only a fraction of an inch showing, people would notice it immediately. I once spotted a 20 dollar bill floating near the bottom of the wave pool at action park on a sunny day from 30 feet away. Greed is the only “drive” that supersedes Self Preservation. Ever notice the people who make those cards that are 50 or 100 dollar bills, only half size(federal law states you can legally make a copy of money if it is 50% smaller or 150% bigger than the original) and leave them places. They always get picked up or spotted.

  48. Dave on bass says:

    @JPropaganda: OK, well, at least only make *funny* modern ones, then. A funny commercial can be really good.

    As for the local TV – the local commercials are absolutely awful (I’m looking at you, Joe’s Pizza and Double D Computer Services of northern VA) but I always assumed it was because they were *trying* to be like the big boys, and just weren’t any good at it.

  49. sir_eccles says:

    @jammadave: I’m looking at you “Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man!”

  50. Mr. Guy says:

    i’d say that this ad may have worked exactly its intended effect on me yesterday. leaving my office, hungry and still hungover, with only a few singles in my pocket, i passed a KFC on the way to the subway. “a snacker!” I thought. “those are only a dollar!”

    unfortunately, in downtown brooklyn, snackers are actually $1.50. DIdn’t stop be from ordering two, and when i realized i could make it an extra value meal, i added the soda and side.

    KFC capitalizes on my hunger and weak will to the tune of $5.95.

  51. I noticed that too last night on a KFC commercial, never thought about it being a subliminal message though. Didn’t work as my family won’t eat at KFC in town, the last couple of times we did the supposedly properly cooked drumsticks were still bleeding.

  52. BigBoat says:

    Any gains made by that subliminal message were lost by that explicit “Ultimate Cheese” pour. Blech.

  53. S-the-K says:

    I would think that subliminal advertising would work if you didn’t have to study the film frame by frame to find it.

    At best, I think it would be the editor’s of the animator’s “easter egg”.

  54. Red_Eye says:

    Something for the ADA to sue over, the marketing is not equally tasty for blind people.

  55. JohnMc says:

    Hmmm. Maybe, maybe not. Look, in many industries production houses will ‘brand’ frames with a small signature so that if there are disputes they can point to those frames then have it compared to dated reference frames in court.

    Not saying its the case here but it is a industry trick.

  56. nadmonk says:

    What do a KFC Snacker and a dollar bill on a bun have in common? They’re both not food.

  57. Burgandy says:

    @nadmonk: The dollar bill probably has more flavor.

  58. JDAC says:

    Wow, it must be good. I had a couple of snackers for lunch today and I’ve only now seen this article!

  59. Twilly says:

    I totally noticed this just last week.

  60. Balisong says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: But these people you’re talking about actually noticed the bill corners. I didn’t notice the dollar in this ad until I looked where the arrow was pointing.

    And @Lambasted: No, it’s not just your KFC. I tried KFC about a year ago because I hadn’t eaten there for years and wanted to try it. Absolutely disgusting. I also got a side of rice, which turned out to be the stuff you buy at the grocery store and microwave in the bag.

  61. @Balisong: Yeah, but it was a large corner, and it elicited a large response. Seeing it this small would make it noticeable at a lesser level. B/c you see it in real life, it’s brought to your attention. But when you see it on TV or in print, it doesn’t elicit that bring to the front attention that real life does.

  62. milesabove says:

    I always thought I saw that but it was too quick to be sure. I don’t know how this is supposed to subliminally make me want a KFC snacker. Equating it with money, no matter what the denomination, seems counter-productive. Idiots.

  63. Balisong says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: I don’t agree with that. Just because I would notice a giant 30-story ant stomping through my neighborhood and physically run away screaming, this doesn’t denote that some part of my brain would notice a tiny regular-sized ant crawling along a dark-colored kitchen floor if I swept my glance across it, leading me to feel a psychological disgust that I can’t explain. There’s a lack of connection in that argument when you say “So-and-so would act this way to a big thing, so they would FEEL this way to a small thing of the same type.” IMO, subliminal whatevers are baseless.

  64. WraithSama says:

    @44 in a Row:
    I think I read before that the guy who invented the concept of subliminal messages (and coined the term) had a marketing firm, and tried to sell the idea to grow his business. The idea was unpopular because of moral concerns. He eventually admitted that subliminal messaging is a sham and he just invented the idea of it as a gimmick to bolster sales for his marketing company.

  65. Lambasted says:

    @Balisong: Good to know it’s not just me. I used to love KFC. Nothing brings fonder memories than thinking of road trips and getting a KFC bucket of chicken for a rest stop picnic.

    Sadly, now their chicken is too fatty and tastes greasy. If there is such a thing as “cheap” chicken, I think KFC uses it. The meat doesn’t appear to be the best quality anymore. Popeye’s chicken isn’t as well seasoned as KFC but its quality is much better and has less fat on it.

  66. Channing says:

    I think seeing the KFC ad all over the internet would make me more inclined to eat it, to be honest.

  67. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    But you can’t get the sandwich for a dollar!!
    99 cents plus tax.

  68. ShadowFalls says:

    What do you think it would do? Make you stuff it under your mattress?

  69. RSM2000 says:

    I saw that, and no one believed me when I said it. I win again.

  70. katoninetales says:

    @jammadave: Funny commercials are awesome. They’ve been playing those Diet Pepsi Max ads since the Superbowl, and I still laugh at them. And my husband yells “Wizard!” every time that cell phone ad comes on, not that I know what cell phone company it’s for, so maybe it’s not that effective an ad.

    @doctor_cos: Some areas don’t have sales tax, or don’t have it on food. Then again, even though I don’t have to pay sales tax on anything, I, like Mr. Guy, live in an area where the “dollar” and $0.99 menus are all $1.50 (the fine print always says “prices higher in Alaska”), so maybe it’s not really $0.99 anywhere.

  71. Upsilon says:

    So, can I sue for false advertising if there isn’t a tiny mock-dollar in my sandwich?

    ~Y

  72. Saboth says:

    I remember the day I bought a KFC snacker. It was basically a tiny chicken nugget on a miniscule bun. I mean… I would maybe say it was worth .50 cent at most. Then you watch the commercials and everyone is using 2 hands to hold one, and it looks huge. They are either doing some LOTR image tricks in those commercials, or the actors are all 4 feet tall with 1 inch fingers.