Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Strange Things Afoot in NDP Advertising?

NDP claims “Saskatchewan Party Stands For PTORN”

Politics and pornography generally make for strange bedfellows.

If the claims made by Saskatchewan Party MLA Nancy Heppner turn out to be true, that would make these strange days, indeed.

Nancy Heppner, the MLA for Martensville, has raised a complaint about a recent NDP ad which accuses the Saskatchewan party of having a “hidden agenda”.

In the ad, numerous phrases are displayed on screen, all of which relate to an NDP claim about the Saskatchewan party’s policies. Each one slowly fades out, letter by letter. At one point, the phrase “Sask Party stood for Privatization of Crowns” fades out. Before the letters disappear completely, the word “porn” can faintly be seen.

The suggestion has been made that the NDP ad represents a lowest-common-denominator attempt at subliminal advertising.

“If it was done on purpose I think it's reprehensible, and if it's done accidentally it needs to be fixed,” Heppner insisted. “Either way it needs to be fixed because I think that it's taking campaign politics and campaigning to a new low and I don't think it's something Saskatchewan people are going to stand for."

Of course, there are problems with Heppner’s claims.

First off, when one examines the screen shot, it doesn’t really seem to read “PORN”. It actually seems to read “PTORN”. Aside from that minor point, there is a larger issue regarding subliminal advertising.

That is, it doesn’t work.

Subliminal messaging theories rely heavily on the theories offered by Gestalt psychology, wherein it is argued that perceptions of the world are essentially broken down into pieces, interpreted by different parts of the brain, then reassembled in the brain.

The process of disassembly, analysis and reassembly theoretically allow such messages to be perceived unconsciously by the mind’s autonomic processes.

Claims regarding the alleged prowess of subliminal advertising were originally made by James Vicary, a man who claimed subliminal messaging had successfully been used to hock coca-cola and popcorn in a Fort Lee, New Jersey movie theatre. Further experiments into subliminal advertising yielded no supportive results, and Vicary finally admitted in 1962 that he had falsified his original claims.

In fact, the alleged power of subliminal advertising has never been proven emperically.

If Heppner’s claims turn out to be true, then it would seem that the NDP is hitching their wagon to a horse that has been proven to be lame – or at least hasn’t been proven to be effective.

Given that the “message” doesn’t really distinctly spell “PORN”, it’s more likely that the “message” Heppner has detected is entirely coincidental.

Stranger things have happened.


  1. Heppner is really swiping at thin air on this one. I'm a Sask Party supporter and I think in all likelihood it would be the Sask Party claiming that the NDP stood for porn!

    You're right, subliminal messaging doesn't work and I think the acronym is lost on most potential voters. Fact is, the Sask party should WALK into power in the next election and crap like this will just make them look like raving lunatics - giving moderate voters a reason NOT to vote for them.

    "If Heppner’s claims turn out to be true, then it would seem that the NDP is hitching their wagon to a horse that has been proven to be lame – or at least hasn’t been proven to be effective."

    Are you referring to subliminal messaging, or Lorne Calvert?

  2. It reminds me, actually, of the stag used by Hartford Insurance as their logo. Few people I know have seen it straight off, but a little examination shows that the antlers intertwine to form the word "STUD". (Of course, once this is "seen", either by being pointed out or by one's own investigation, it's pretty much all that is seen in the logo thereafter, proving Heidegger's point about things being "ready to hand" and "present to hand" in the first part of Sein und Zeit. (For whatever that's worth - personally, that, plus $5.30, will buy a venti extra shot mocha at Starbucks, and I happen to think Heidegger is worthy of study!)

    So, having had it pointed out, I look at the image and I see "P .. O .. R .. N" (plus a "T" off in the corner). Until this was pointed out, I saw "P - T / O - R - N" on two lines. Which is it? Does it matter?

    I'm sure the Saskatchewan Party can come up with a response that fades-to-"massage" in the same way. Which will do nothing for serious political discourse in Saskatchewan, but will even the playing field at 2 x 0 = 0.

  3. Or those French Connection T-shirts with FCUK (oops) written on them.


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