Hidden message leads to iiNet ad ban

Summary:A new ad for iiNet's Naked DSL product featuring a hidden message within two frames has had its on-air approval withdrawn, following allegations that the ad breached rules on subliminal advertising.

A new ad for iiNet's Naked DSL product featuring a hidden message within two frames has had its on-air approval withdrawn, following allegations that the ad breached rules on subliminal advertising.

Finn

The hidden message
(Credit: iiNet)

The ad featuring iiNet spokesperson Finn extolling the virtues of making calls using voice over IP (VoIP) on the Naked DSL product had a message embedded into two frames with the following text:

Wow. Impressive. You not only spotted this in our TV ad, you found a way to read it. That can't have been easy. This whole page only lasted two frames. That's less than one tenth of a second. Well done, sir or madam. We're going to reward your awesome pausing powers with a little gift. Type this link into your browser: iinet.net.au/2framefreebie. And yes, you can tell your friends. But let's keep it to a minimum of a hundred, OK? And hey, watch for more two-frame freebies in our next TV campaign.

At the time the ad aired on Nine, it was quickly picked up online by sites such as Whirlpool. According to the iiNet general manager of retail, Matt Dunstan, the link at the time wasn't working because Nine wasn't supposed to run the ad originally.

In the time since the ad aired some 4400 people found it and went to the link, according to iiNet.

But today in a blog post, Dunstan said that the ad had been banned.

"We had 4400 people find it and they were pretty happy with themselves and that was about as far as it went, at least up until yesterday," he said.

"That was until the rest of the world caught on to our little bit of fun and the online conversation buzzed. Some people were discussing whether it was 'subliminal advertising', others thought it was 'just a bit of fun', others said it was 'marketing genius' — I liked the last people the best."

Approval for the ad was withdrawn by Free TV Australia's Commercial Advice CAD, according to iiNet. The ad would appear to be in breach of the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice (PDF), specifically around licensees broadcasting material "which attempts to convey information to the viewer by transmitting messages below or near the threshold of normal awareness".

Dunstan said that iiNet didn't set out to break the law by making the ad.

"We did it because we wanted to do things differently to how others are doing it. We did it because we believe in having fun and because we want to have real engagement with our customers, rather than just preaching to them via traditional, one-way advertising."

Free TV Australia declined to comment on the matter, telling ZDNet Australia that the advertisement was a matter for the advertiser.

Topics: Telcos

About

Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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