Privacy, Persuasion and Fundamental Rights

Perhaps, not surprisingly, it started with a lie. In 1957, James Vicary, on a hot summer day, in a Fort Lee, NJ movie theater, claimed to have run an experiment where he said he inserted frames into a movie and flashed on the screen the words “Eat Popcorn” and “Drink Coca Cola”. He claimed this subliminal (meaning literally below threshold) advertising resulted in huge increases in the sales of popcorn (up 58%) and Coca Cola (up 18%). Vicary stated that subliminal communication was so powerful and had such potentially dangerous uses that he suggested warning the public when subliminal techniques were in use, and even seemed to think that some sort of governmental regulation might be needed.

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