Subliminal Advertising of Ideas #guestpost by @RobertEggleton1


Today I’m joined by Robert Eggleton, author of Rarity in the Hollow, who has written a really interesting guest post about subliminal messages and allegory in his work. You’ll find buying links and more about the author at the bottom of the post.

The following article examines the subliminal advertising of ideas as exemplified by my debut novel, Rarity from the Hollow, adult literary fiction with a science fiction backdrop, and within the context of modern advertising philosophies and practices.  

Potential consumers of products and services are exposed to ongoing direct advertising pitches via all media: television, radio, magazines, newspapers, email, social media sites, blogs…. Since it’s the advertising fees that pay for many particular medium, most of us have gotten used to it. At least half of the time, direct advertising works.

 Some people take steps to minimize exposures to direct advertising, such as clicking on remote controls, purchasing movie packages with presentations that don’t include commercials, turning on computer software protection to prevent pop-up adverts…. Perhaps in retaliation, some prominent magazines have blocked the reading of their articles if the viewer is not willing to accept its advertising.  

Indirect advertising of products and services is also prevalent. For example, I live in Charleston, West Virginia. Each day on the afternoon news, a local optometrist, a local dentist, a fat-reduction doctor, or a local family attorney, one of the same four advertisers over and over again, field consumer questions as part of the news broadcast. Their practices are booming! I suspect that you have seen the same type of indirect advertising in your localities.

The vast majority of media claims editorial ownership over what appears. Not that long ago, a new word was coined and primarily, in effect, refers to the advertising of that which was not properly paid for: SPAM. “The origin of the term comes from a 1970 Monty Python’s Flying Circus skit. In this skit, all the restaurant’s menu items devolve into SPAM. When the waitress repeats the word SPAM, a group of Vikings in the corner sing “SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, lovely SPAM! Wonderful SPAM!”, drowning out other conversation, until they are finally told to shut it.

In some online communities, such as forums, messages that are considered to be Spam are deleted and the member who posted Spam is sometimes blocked from participating on the forum in the future. Typically, comments on blogs are moderated and only those approved by the administrator will appear in public. Spam in public seems under control.  

Personally, I seem to be getting less Spam by private email than I used to get. I don’t know why because I have rarely successfully blocked anything from sources, including an annoying advertising service called Mindfield. As an exception to better judgment, several years ago, I did agree to participate in this program. It surveys consumers who earn points that can be cashed in for products. After an initial trial, I concluded that participation wasn’t worth my time and that the program was just another form of indirect advertising, not genuine to its stated mission. I’ve given up trying to get off that mailing list. While more annoying than the occasional male enhancement advertisements, numerous attempts to unsubscribe to Mindfield have proven futile for me.

You probably get Spam email, as well. I’ve gotten used to it and now regard it to be a minor inconvenience and not worth ranting about as have been a most prominent historical reaction to Spam in some circles. Like the Monty Python skit that I mentioned above, I’ve visited places online where ranting about Spam was the major topic of conversation.

The entirety of the Spam phenomena inspired me to name one of the characters in Rarity from the Hollow after it. DotCom is an android sent to Earth to recruit and train the protagonist, Lacy Dawn, to fulfill her destiny as the savior of the universe. A recurring pun throughout the story, his name stands for the repetitive marketing of that which is least needed. Before being assigned to the Lacy Dawn Adventures project, the android’s original role, the purpose for its creation, was to Spam the Universe.  

In 1974, a great book was published about the implementation of an advertising technique that was neither direct nor indirect. Advertisers were using subliminal communications. Commercials were hidden in images, such as within ice cube of glasses of liquor, and flashes of texts not perceived by the conscious mind were flashed on screens so fast that audiences did not perceive them as having been received. 1974

About the time that this book was published, I had just enrolled in graduate school. I remember several parties where part of the recreation was looking at advertisements in popular magazines, such as Esquire or Playboy, to find and announce hidden images, such as a picture of bare female breasts inside an ice cube. From memory, it seems like a preponderance of the hidden images found were sexual, as if to say that if one buy this or that product that he or she will be sexier.

Unlike some other countries, the U.S. has no specific law prohibiting subliminal advertising. It is now regulated under the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that provides for revoking the license of broadcasters who engage in subliminal advertising. With the tremendous increase in the size of the marketplace since cyberspace has been invented, the effectiveness of the FCC regulation is unknown. I could find no recent updates that addressed the matter. If deregulation under the Trump administration touches the FCC, a reemergence of subliminal advertising could become something to pay attention to in the future.

However, as has been the tradition in fiction, at least until Young Adult and Romance novels overwhelmed the marketplace, instead of products and services, insights and ideas have been marketed in stories. There are many examples, but one of the best known authors to market ideas, in my opinion, has been the works by Charles Dickens. In all fairness, however, when Harry Potter gave Dobby, the House Elf, a sock to free the elf from slavery, that act was a mostly hidden antiracism statement by the author. While not exactly subliminal, it was probably not obvious to most readers either.    

1 Rarity Front Cover WEB (2)

Rarity from the Hollow is a story of victimization to empowerment. Early tragedy feeds and amplifies subsequent comedy and satire. In a nutshell, Lacy Dawn is an abused child living in an impoverished hollow who learns that she is the unlikely saviour of the universe. The Advance Review Copy (ARC) of the novel was awarded two Gold Medals by major book review organizations, was named one of the best releases of 2015 by a Bulgarian book critic, and received twenty-six five star reviews and forty-three four star reviews by independent book review bloggers on Amazon.

I especially appreciated the book review of the ARC of Rarity from the Hollow by Awesome Indies (excerpt): “…a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, only instead of the earth being destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass, Lacy Dawn must…The author has managed to do what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse, and written about them with tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them…Eggleton sucks you into the Hollow, dunks you in the creek, rolls you in the mud, and splays you in the sun to dry off. Tucked between the folds of humor are some profound observations on human nature and modern society that you have to read to appreciate…it’s a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.

As with most other reviews of the ARC, many of the messages in the story addressed by the above review were obvious. A different review hinted that there could be something more in my story beyond the obvious. Readers’ Favorite found (excerpt): “…Full of cranky characters and crazy situations, Rarity From the Hollow sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved… Robert Eggleton is a brilliant writer whose work is better read on several levels. I appreciated this story on all of them.”

One aspect of my story that was not obvious to any reviewers of the ARC was its political allegory. The allegory was not hidden, and certainly not subliminal. Quite the opposite, it was in your face parody and farcical.

First, there is no political advocacy in my novel, one side or any other. With respect to allegory, Rarity from the Hollow was the first, if not the only, science fiction adventure to specifically predict the rise of Donald Trump to political power. Please see this press release:

You would have to read the novel to find out how Lacy Dawn, the protagonist, convinced Mr. Rump (Bernie Sanders) to help talk Mr. Prump (Donald Trump) into saving the universe. The allegory includes pressing issues that are being debated today, including illegal immigration and the refuge crisis, an issue that several European commentators have compared to cockroach infestation; extreme capitalism / consumerism vs. domestic spending for social supports; sexual harassment…. Mr. Prump in my story was a projection of Donald Trump based on the TV show, The Apprentice. The counterpart, Mr. Rump, was based on my understanding of positions held by Bernie Sanders as I wrote the story. Part of the negotiations in the story occur in the only high rise on planet Shptiludrp (Shop Until You Drop), a giant shopping mall and the center of economic governance, now more easily identifiable as Trump Tower.

The political allegory in Rarity from the Hollow was not addressed by ARC reviewers of the novel because so few worldwide considered Donald Trump to be a serious political contender until the primary elections in the U.S. He, simply, was off the political radar. The allegory in the novel is much more obvious now that Donald Trump has become a household name. I guess that one could consider the political allegory hidden by world circumstances, but not as a technique used by me, the author.

On 1-6-17, the first review of the final edition of my novel was published, five stars. At this point in time, Donald Trump was well-known and generally considered controversial candidate for President of the U.S. Most polls still didn’t expect him to win. The closing lines of this review were: “…Brilliant satires such as this are genius works of literature in the same class as Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm.’ I can picture American Lit professors sometime in the distant future placing this masterpiece on their reading list.”

There are a couple of hidden messages in Rarity from the Hollow and this article is the first place that I’ve mentioned them. I guess that these messages could be considered semi-subliminal and I’m not going to elaborate because I don’t want to spoil the story for any potential readers.

Religion. What religion would you guess that the author holds after reading this line from the story? “Jesus is everybody’s friend, not just humans.” Does the author believe that all the Biblical passages used by antiabortionists to support that position could be interpreted to mean something entirely different, something big and about life in the universe?

War. If, before needing Lacy Dawn’s help, Mr. Prump in Rarity from the Hollow had exhausted all options to war against cockroach infestation (the refugee crisis, illegal immigration, ISIS….) after millennia of various efforts, does the author believe that President Trump’s plan to build a wall on our southern border or to significantly increase the military budget will solve our problems or resolve issues?

Thanks so much for the opportunity to tell you about my debut novel. Please keep in mind that half of author proceeds from the project are donated to prevent the maltreatment of children. For a very touching audio about the nonprofit agency, please check this out:

About the author:

Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from 1982 through 1997.                                

Today, he is a retired children’s psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. 

Purchase links:

 Author Contacts:









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