Hidden message leads to iiNet ad ban

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A new ad for iiNet's Naked DSL product featuring a hidden message within two frames has had its on-air approval withdrawn, following allegations that the ad breached rules on subliminal advertising.

TOPICS: Telcos

A new ad for iiNet's Naked DSL product featuring a hidden message within two frames has had its on-air approval withdrawn, following allegations that the ad breached rules on subliminal advertising.


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Approval for the ad was withdrawn by Free TV Australia's Commercial Advice CAD, according to iiNet.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.

Topic: Telcos


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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  • Wow, lots of issues here.
    I mean, you're telling me iiNet was absolutely serious about releasing this ad on the consensus that only people that watch TV would be the only ones catching the in-between frame special offer...?!?

    Hmm. Publicity stunt anyone?
  • Well whatever their motives were, if that youtube ad contained the two frames in question I couldn't see it. If all the subliminal message was a weblink and not the words love iinet or something similar I can't see where it crosses the line. I would suspect the spirit of the FreeTV stand on subliminal messages would be where they impact your emotion or feeling towards a company, not just make it hard to find an extra promotion. It could very well be they were hoping on word of mouth to spread the weblink as I can't see the ad doing it. Perhaps Free TV Australia are just so stupid they played right into iinet's hands.
    That kind of stupidity shouldn't be tolerated, lets ban Free TV :)
  • It's pretty f*cked up country we live in where a harmless promo like this is banned from the air, but TodayTonight can get away with broadcasting outright lies and deceitful footage about emotive social issue like asylum seekers to millions of gullible viewers without any repercussion whatsoever.

  • I think there should be more subliminal advertising. I can't be bothered making choices anymore. If the television tells me that I should like Samsung and not Apple then great, decision made. If this is the biggest thing happening in peoples lives then we all need help. Maybe a subliminal message saying go outside and exercise might help.
  • This isn't subliminal advertising; if it had been "Buy iiNet" or "Telstra Sucks" then sure but this is a paragraph of text which couldn't possibly be picked up and read subconsciously.
    FTV has to step on this simply because not doing so creates a grey area
    • If it shapes your perception of the brand, it's advertising.
  • yvan eht nioj
    yvan eht nioj
  • look petesh, i don't know what the hell that means but all this subliminal stuff is bs..

    anyway, just off to join the navy, now...