ARIA “subliminal ads” breached Code

* Exclusive: The Australian Communications and Media Authority has found Network TEN in breach of the Code of Practice for advertiser logos flashed during the broadcast of the 2007 ARIA Awards.

TEN was found to have flashed images of logos –including Chupa Chups, KFC, Toyota, BigPond and Olay – below or near the threshold of normal awareness, during its nominations packages.

Last year the ABC’s Media Watch criticised the frames it said flashed at 1/25th of a second. Viewers also complained about what they dubbed “subliminal advertising.”

TEN denied it was subliminal or near-subliminal and said its rapid-cut editing was creative and within the boundaries of the Code of Practice. “Claims that our ARIA’s nominations packages included subliminal or near-subliminal advertising are incorrect,” said Margaret Fearn, TEN’s Head of Corporate Communications said at the time.

ACMA found otherwise, noting the messages were indeed below normal awareness, and further, that it was not done reasonably. It found 12 segments which breached the Code, including 23 occasions in which a logo appeared for one frame only.

In its application to ACMA, TEN further contested that the logos for sponsors rapid-cut into nominations were accompanied by a smaller, more prominent logo for each package. It said the rapid edits were designed to match the “mash up” feel of music video clips, and defended that any use message transmitted near or below the threshold of normal awareness was unintentional.

ACMA also found the use of a commercial logo was inconsistent with TEN’s claim it was artistic work. In fact it went as far as to say sponsor logos interrupted artistic work, and found their use was for commercial purposes.

ACMA did not accept the use of logos was an honest mistake, citing that editors inserted them with “considerable precision.”

It concluded TVQ, TEN, ATV and ADS breached the Code of Practice.

TEN screens the 2008 ARIA Awards on Sunday October 19.

Updated: * Since TV Tonight published this story ACMA has now updated its website.

In response to the breach findings, Network TEN will:

* distribute the investigation report to relevant production staff (both in-house and external) to ensure that future productions of ARIA Awards are consistent with ACMA’s view;
* not use the same rapid cut use of sponsor logos for the upcoming 2008 ARIA Music Awards;
* use the finding as an example in regular code training sessions with staff, to ensure future compliance; and
* highlight the code clause in their external production agreements.

ACMA forewarns the industry that a future breach will result in significantly heightened compliance measures.


  1. Pray tell what are “significantly heightened compliance measures. ”

    Another slap on the wrist. Just like the way , there appears to be a lack of regulation on TV.
    the old school method of 7 mins advertising in the hour worked many moons ago..nowadays, we have sublimialads, closing credits cut down to advertise upcoming shows, abnner ads at bottom of screen during movie/show…

    Maybe oif penaty was = you break the rules. Your network can’t show any ads between 8-10 pm , that might work.

    P.S. David, who is on ACMA (old network execs maybe) and what are compliace measures…

  2. I prefer the use of “super-liminal” advertising myself, like Mr T selling Snickers…

    It’s nice to see the ACMA handing out a stern slap on the wrist there…. Oh no! They will distribute the investigation report to relevant production staff? Whatever shall we do?? What? They will highlight the code clause in their external production agreements?? With what colour will it be highlighted??? Not yellow… think of the children!!!

  3. “TEN denied it was subliminal or near-subliminal and said its rapid-cut editing was creative and within the boundaries of the Code of Practice.”

    Why don’t 10 ever take responsibility for anything? Maybe that’s why the network is so f****d up.

  4. If I noticed it at the time, does that mean it’s not subliminal…or am I just a gifted human who can process images at 1/25th of a second!!?? Move over Superman…your days of x-ray vision are numbered!

  5. There are continuing debates about whether it works or not. Plenty of arguments, studies and results proving both sides. Still, they should have known better.

  6. Subliminal advertising doesn’t actually work, in the sense of compelling you to buy something. If an image flashes up, it can embed itself in your mind briefly without you realising why, but that’s as far as it goes. Beyond that it’s not really doing anything.

    Having said that, I do prefer it if advertising is direct and upfront. I hate awkwardly staged product placement in a regular dramatic show.

  7. David, it is nice that you posted that YouTube clip. I enjoyed watching that MW segment.

    If Ten seriously learned something , then they wouldn’t have displayed the flash ads.

  8. I’ve seen tiny flashes of the Crazy John’s logo during Sports Tonight a few times now. And like Tim, I’ve seen that Nintendo thing on 5th Grader, too.

  9. Tim – do you mean when they flash the “Nintendo DS” logo behind a the next rotating money prize pool figure? That’s there for a second of two and would think it would be within the threshold of normal human awareness.

  10. And yet 10 just doesn’t learn. On 5th grader (at least the last one) , i noticed that there was an quick ad in the money area when it was either the principal or stephen curry winning $10,000 (i think it was 10k anyway) i noticed it but had to rewind and freeze frame it to see what the ad was for.

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