New book reveals how advertising seduces our subconscious

Choosing to ignore advertising may lend it greater power, reveals a new book which explores how we process advertising – at both a subconscious and semi-conscious level.

Dr Robert Heath, a pioneer in the field of brand communications from the University of Bath’s School of Management, explains the hidden power of advertising using the latest research in experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience.

His book, entitled Seducing the Subconscious: The Psychology of Emotional Influence in Advertising exposes how much advertising affects our everyday decisions and how little we realise it is happening.

Dr Heath explains why the most successful advertising campaigns are not those we love or hate or those with messages that are interesting or new, but campaigns that are able to effortlessly slip under our radar and influence our behaviour without us knowing.

Dr Heath said: “It may seem counter-intuitive, but the best way to avoid advertising affecting us this way is to embrace it. The more attention you give it, the more you can counter-argue what you see and hear, and the less it will affect you.

“It may be tedious, it may be annoying, and it may make your life a bit uncomfortable. But at least you’ll know you haven’t been subconsciously seduced.”

Dr Heath quotes the advert for Nationwide Building Society as one which fits his model extremely well. He said: “The latest ad is very forgettable, but in the background there’s a re-record of the Ben E King classic Stand by Me. So although you don’t necessarily recall the ad or the message in the ad, it means that you will over time associate Nationwide with being reliable and supportive when you face major problems (like buying a house!).” 

Writer Will Self reviewed Dr Heath’s book in Prospect magazine and said: “Heath’s book is far more persuasive than any advertisement, no matter how top-loaded the latter may be with accurate information. His thesis depends on a lengthy journey through cognitive science and evolutionary psychology, and a firm grasp on how – so far as we know – the human mind actually does work (rather than how we would like it to work). Heath demonstrates quite clearly – at least to my satisfaction – that it is precisely when we pay no conscious attention to advertising that advertisers get to work on our subconscious with complete effectiveness.”  

Dr Heath has a worldwide reputation as an expert in the role of emotion and attention in the field of brand communication. He began his career in marketing in the 1970s, moving into advertising as a strategic planner and in a twenty-six year career worked on many famous campaigns including the Marlboro Cowboy, Castrol GTX Liquid Engineering, “I Bet He Drinks” Carling Black Label, Heineken “Refreshes the Parts” and Stella Artois “Reassuringly Expensive.”

He is a Chartered Marketer, a fellow of the Market Research Society, a fellow of the European Advertising Academy and a member of the Global Future of Advertising Advisory Board.

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