Is It Legal?
There is a lot of controversy surrounding subliminal messages right now. In the last couple of years they have been big news..
Subliminal Messaging and personal development
Are Subliminal Messages Better than Positive Affirmations??
Subliminal Messaging - the Easy Path to Success?
Subliminal Messages Review
First it was McDonalds - they got accused of flashing a subliminal image on the Food Network tv channel. Then it was George Bush in the public eye for, using political subliminal messages to try and gain an advantage during his election campaign. It is a shame, but even after being highlighted in the media like this, these subliminal manipulations were not further investigated. George Bush just ignored the allegations and eventually they went away, and McDonalds claimed it was just an error rather than a deliberate subliminal advert.
No further investigation ever followed either Bush or McDonalds - sadly. It is clear that more should be done to monitor and control the use of subliminal messages and how they are used, but back to the original question: Simply put, no they are not illegal. They are not allowed to be used within advertising in the way that you can't use pure subliminal sounds, or flashing subliminal images or text. However the the rules don't really apply to a "subliminal suggestion".
A subliminal suggestion is usually an image which when you first look at it probably appears normal, but on further inspection there is a subliminal link - normally linking a product to sex within the mind of the consumer.
This can be as simple as having a beautiful girl smiling and using the product, or it may be more subtle such as incorporating the female body figure into the background of your adverts - Pepsi often use this female type imagery for example.. Use Subliminal Messaging For Your Own Advancement You don't have to be scared of subliminal messages - you can use them audio for your own personal development - to help you reach your goals, and when they are used responsibly like this they can have a fantastic, even life changing result! They act like a mild form of hypnosis and they gradually re-shape your inner most thoughts and beliefs from the inside out - and most importantly; in a positive way of your choice..
In Australia and Britain, the use of subliminal advertising has been banned with severe consequences for those who disobey the strict laws. In the United States, not much is being done from a legal standpoint to curn the use of subliminal messages. The Federal Communications Commission, however, will now revoke a company's broadcast license if the use of "subliminal techniques" is proven. The following is from the FCC's Manual for Broadcasters:
We sometimes receive complaints regarding the alleged use of subliminal techniques in radio and TV programming. Subliminal programming is designed to be perceived on a subconscious level only. Regardless of whether it is effective, the use of subliminal perception is inconsistent with a station's obligation to serve the public interest because the broadcast is intended to be deceptive. (Federal Communications Commission Record, 2001)
Since most subliminal messages, however, are indiscernible on the conscious level (take a look at some of them in the "examples" section of this website), it takes a difficult and costly effort to find them in the first place. Keep reading to learn about a famous case of subliminal messages in the court room.
The Judas Priest Trial
Judas Priest is a British heavy metal rock band-one of the first bands of the genre. Their popularity peaked in the mid-seventies, and in 1978 they produced an album called Stained Glass. It is because of that album, and an alleged subliminal phrase hidden in the song "Better by You, Better than Me," that the band had to go through extensive trial proceedings that lasted over a year.
The hidden phrase was, apparently, "do it." In isolation, this phrase has little meaning unless there is some antecedent to which the "it" refers. But, according to the parents of the two teenage Judas Priest fans who attempted suicide in 1985, a hidden "do it" can have much more serious implications.
In Reno, Nevada, in the summer of 1989, the boys' parents took Judas Priest to trial, suing the band for the influence that their music allegedly had on the boys' actions. The parents argued that their sons, who probably already had suicidal tendencies, were influenced enough to take action after experiencing the message in Judas Priest's music. Judas Priest claimed that they did not intentionally place a subliminal message on the album, and made the argument that, even if they had used subliminal messages, the messages should be protected by the First Amendment.
The judge, Justice Jerry Carr Whitehead, ruled that the First Amendment's protection of freedom of speech and press does not extend as far as subliminal messages. Since the recipient of a subliminal message is unaware of it, the message can't contribute to dialogue, the pursuit of truth, the marketplace of ideas, or personal autonomy. There is no information exchange when it comes to subliminal messages, and no disagreement or argument is possible if recipients are unaware of the message's presence. Judge Whitehead also explained that people have a right to be free from unwanted speech. Since subliminal material cannot be avoided, it constitutes an invasion of privacy (Vance v. Judas Priest 1989b).
Justice Whitehead ruled, however, in favor of Judas Priest. His ruling was based on the defense's insistence that the power of such a message to move a person to action has never been proven (for more on this idea, look at the psychology section of this website). He stated his conclusions on the subliminal threat in this way:
The scientific research presented does not establish that subliminal stimuli, even if perceived, may precipitate conduct of this magnitude...The strongest evidence presented at the trial showed no behavioral effects other than anxiety, distress or tension." (Vance v. Judas Priest, 1990)