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Seducing the Subconscious: The Psychology of Emotional Influence in Advertising Hardcover – Apr 9 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell (April 9 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470974885
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470974889
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 1.8 x 23.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 599 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #446,190 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“Summing Up: Recommended.  Upper-division and graduate students of advertising and psychology, faculty, and practitioners.”  (Choice, 1 October 2012)

“Heath’s book is far more persuasive than any advertisement, no matter how top-loaded the latter may be with accurate information. His thesis depends on a lengthy journey through cognitive science and evolutionary psychology, and a firm grasp on how – so far as we know – the human mind actually does work (rather than how we would like it to work). Heath demonstrates quite clearly – at least to my satisfaction – that it is precisely when we pay no conscious attention to advertising that advertisers get to work on our subconscious with complete effectiveness.”   WILL SELF, Prospect, June 2012

"(Heath) avoids academic obscurantism and fills the book with clever dissections of well-known ads... The case studies add up to an intriguing, down-to-earth introduction to the mysteries of the subconscious..."
Financial Times, March 2012

"Dr Robert Heath, who teaches at the University of Bath, has popularised the theory of ‘low attention processing’, which argues that ads make a stronger emotional and behavioural impact when we are paying less conscious attention to them. In his new book, Seducing the Subconscious, he further develops this thinking, providing a detailed and scholarly explanation of the psychological processes involved, and illustrating these with advertising examples, many based on his own long experience in ad agencies."
Paul Feldwick, Credos, March 2012


An articulate, compelling and, at times, disturbing explanation of how advertising works. The theory and examples in Seducing the Subconscious offer new insight into how advertising works and are a must read for any advertiser, consumer, and policy maker.
Jerry Wind, Lauder Professor and Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School, Director of the Wharton Future of Advertising Program

Dr. Heath writes with great insight into the workings of advertising and communication. He draws on theory to frame the question and guides the reader through how the subconscious is at the forefront of our behaviour. His book is a 'must read' for anyone with the slightest involvement or interest in marketing.
Judy Zaichkowsky, Professor of Marketing and Communications, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

Advertising works at both a conscious and subconscious level. Anyone who wants to understand how should read this well-researched and generally balanced book.
Patrick Barwise, Emeritus Professor, London Business School

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa3ff01c8) out of 5 stars 11 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa400b288) out of 5 stars Cutting Edge Science in Advertising July 3 2012
By John Chancellor - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
John Wanamaker, considered by some to be the father of modern advertising and a pioneer in marketing, has often been quoted as saying, "I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I can never find out which half." Too bad Seducing the Subconscious was not available to him, he may have had better results with figuring out which half was wasted.

For quite some time there has been a widely accepted formula for persuasion advertising - AIDA - Attention, Interest, Desire and Action (there is a slightly alternate formula AICA - Attention, Interest, Conviction and Action). In either case, it is believed that you must get the prospects attention, arouse interest, create desire or conviction and move them to action. But as Wanamaker observed you can follow this formula and still create an advertisement which flops.

In recent years television has come to dominate the advertising markets. But consumers have become burned out on TV advertising - paying less and less attention to them. Yet many still seem to work in spite of the majority of people not paying attention and unable to recall the message of the ad. So what is going on? How do ads work if people are not paying attention, have no interest in the ads and appear to have little or no desire for the product? That is the subject of Seducing the Subconscious.

Robert Heath, the author, makes a case that if we are paying active attention to an ad, our defenses go up. In his words, the more attention we pay to an ad, the higher chances of our "counter-arguing" the information presented in the ad. But when we pay little or no attention to the ad, it slips under the radar and invades our subconscious. When it becomes part of our subconscious, we have no defense against it. The ad is able to influence us without our knowing or realizing where the influence came from.

Mr. Heath writes from his 23 years of experience in the agency advertising world and his current position as a university professor lecturing on advertising. The book has a rather heavy academic style. But the information is highly interesting and engaging. He is British so there are some occasions where the language or the companies will be distinctively UK.

To arrive at the model of Seducing the Subconscious, you will first need to understand how we learn and process information. Mr. Heath goes into great detail explaining how we learn - active learning and passive learning, how we store memories and how we process communication. This is a very interesting and fascinating process. It is really a very detailed study in human psychology.

Once you have a good understanding of the science behind the process, Mr. Heath introduces you to the model of Seducing the Subconscious. He gives plenty of case studies - advertisements which worked and some which flopped. What I found very interesting was the success of many advertisements which made no "pitch" but the message appealed to the subconscious - it slipped into the viewer's subconscious mind and was able to exert great influence without the knowledge of the consumer.

This model is applicable to brand advertising. One of the important components is the repeated exposure. I would love to see how this applies to direct response marketing and certainly hope the author addresses this segment at some point in the future.

If you are involved in any way in marketing/advertising, this is an interesting but somewhat academic read. You will gain some valuable insights about human memory and communication.

As we come to a better understanding of Seducing the Subconscious, we will see it more and more in things all around us. From a consumer's standpoint, your best defense is to stop ignoring ads and to actively pay attention to them.

This is cutting edge science and should be on the reading list for those who want a better understanding of how and why advertising works or fails to work.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa400bc3c) out of 5 stars `Seducing the Subconscious' July 2 2012
By Ken Roberts, Forethought Research - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
If your profession is marketing and communication and you have not completely managed to keep up with recent literature, please let me make a recommendation. `Seducing the Subconscious' by Robert Heath will bring you completely up to date with important work by Damasio and others and how it relates to contemporary communication. Heath has not himself been seduced as other authors have by the disproportionate emphasis on emotion as he presents a balanced discussion on emotion, cognitive learning and the continuing importance of out of fashion measures such as recall. He deals perfectly with high, low and no attention processing. In my opinion, `Seducing the Subconscious' is the most comprehensive reading on contemporary communication theory penned thus far.Seducing the Subconscious: The Psychology of Emotional Influence in Advertising
HASH(0xa400b714) out of 5 stars A thought-provoking discussion of how advertising works July 24 2012
By Tom Palmer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While consumers are loathe to admit that advertising influences their thoughts and behaviors, the reality is that advertising is a large and prosperous industry quite simply because it works. The challenge for marketers is to understand how advertising works so that we can improve upon John Wanamaker's quip that 50% of it is wasted (and the counter-argument that 50% of all successful advertising is never produced). Dr. Heath leads a strong and thought-provoking discussion that is recommended for both students and practitioners with a serious interest in the study of branding and marketing communications. As an ad man, Robert shows great respect for ideas and creative expression. And as an academic, Dr. Heath shows an equal respect for the sciences. As with his earlier monograph, The Hidden Power of Advertising, Seducing The Subconscious provides a rigorous yet conversational review of psychology, neuroscience, and emotions along with a steady stream of case studies. While any discussion of advertising might be more enjoyable in a seminar forum or video series, the book is clearly written and thoroughly engaging. Well done.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa400bd08) out of 5 stars Treatise on the Power of Advertising and How it really Works!! April 17 2013
By Amber FLYNN - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I ordered this book because of the title, and I was not disappointed!

The author begins his study by making a controversial case that if we pay more clear and conscious attention to the advertisements around us our defense mechanisms go up,but that doesn't necessarily mean that advertisements get into our subconscious.

Rather, he is actually the opposite! The MORE attention we pay to advertisements is when we actually do not succeed in defending ourselves from the message. At first that seemed very counter intuitive to me....

He goes on to illustrate that it is actually when we pay very little or absolutely NO attention to the advertisements that they actually get in!!!

Astounding to me!!

But that is exactly his brilliant point. It is the subconscious, what is BELOW our level of consciousness that is responding to the advertisements!!!

When things becomes part of our subconscious essentially we have literally NO defense against it..

Advertisements are able to influence us regardless of where the influence was initiated, or where it came from.

The author really knows what he is talking about with 23 years of being connected to the advertising world. He goes quite deeply into explaining how active learning and passive learning work in our lives and how we store things, we didn't even know we stored!!

Caveat here...... If you are interested in this kind of understanding I think books on hypnosis actually will "fill in the holes" with this whole study. We are actually being hypnotized daily!!

There are lots of case studies in this book that help you to understand what worked and what didn't. This was my favorite part of the book because seeing it actually work is what makes this more interesting then just talking about it.

I gave this book 5 stars because I felt that within itself it did a really great job of covering EVERYTHING I thought it would be about.
HASH(0xa407d24c) out of 5 stars Excellent review of the academic studies on human behavior relevant ... March 17 2015
By Deanna A Manfredi - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent review of the academic studies on human behavior relevant to market research, marketing and advertising. Useful case studies help clarify the theories and make this accessible to a wide audience.