The Hidden Persuader

June 21, 1989 1 min read

Jason P. Loupe, a new high-school graduate from Huoma, La., has won a statewide writing contest by describing--and employing--the techniques of subliminal advertising.

Mr. Loupe included a surreptitious suggestion to “give this essay first place” throughout a 250-word composition, entitled “The Power of Subliminal Messages,” that he entered in a competition sponsored by the state Education Department.

Mr. Loupe thinks that contest judges may have given some weight to the lighthearted message when they chose his essay from among thousands submitted by high-school seniors.

“One of them told me, ‘When I read it, I laughed and I made my secretary read it too,”’ he recalled.

Mr. Loupe said he was inspired to adopt the gimmick by a soft-drink advertisement, featuring the comedian John Cleese, that appears on a videotape of the film “A Fish Called Wanda.”

During the commercial, in which Mr. Cleese berates advertisers who use hidden messages to sell their products, the comedian props his feet on a table, revealing a copy of a sponsor’s logo taped to the sole of his shoe.

The youth said he immediately suggested to Raphael J. Songe, who heads the English department at H.L. Bourgeois High School, that the tactic might be a winner.

“He came to me with the idea and I said let’s go ahead and try it,” said Mr. Songe, who used a computer to type the essay so that the message, which appeared 13 times, was so small as to be barely legible.

Mr. Songe said the piece was an example of “good, solid writing,” but added that the idea to include a subliminal message was typical of his former student’s sometimes offbeat sensibilities.--pw

A version of this article appeared in the June 21, 1989 edition of Education Week as The Hidden Persuader