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The Art of Subliminal Advertising

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"I see what you did there."

When a brand puts something out there that has a bit of a wink to it, consumers have a chance to get in on the joke. Sometimes, however, things are so clever that one wonders if the brand intended such a connection to be made...and those who get said ├╝ber-clever connection are left wondering whether it was intentional or serendipitous.

The Aleve tie in to hit-TV game show Jeopardy is a great example. Take a look at this photo featuring New Jersey resident Jason Keller at the end of one of his many Jeopardy victories. The smiling Keller adds $25,000 to his growing pot and gets to stay for another try at winning even more money. What about the other two contestants? The connection from Aleve at first seems obvious: the analgesic is relieving their pain by providing some token "loser money." But what else do you notice?

This isn't just any pain reliever sponsoring Alex Trebek's forum for geniuses and trivia masters. There is some subliminal reinforcement of the "Aleve" brandname. The winner gets to stay. Each loser must, ahem, leave. "I leave." "Aleve." Now look at the photo again, from left to right: I stay (to compete again), I leave (with dashed dreams), I leave (having to face friends and relatives after an abysmal performance).

Did Aleve intend this subtle and even comical brand reinforcement? Or is this just a "happy accident" waiting to be discovered by some viewers? Perhaps the brand will provide the answer to this post.

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