There are things we wouldn’t let ourselves be told without rebelling. For example, if someone were to say to us, “whoever drinks this whisky is young, handsome, rich, and happy!” not only would we not believe it, but the whisky in question would become forever unlikable to us. Yet there are plenty of advertisements that say exactly this. But implicitly. In fact, what else does a video show when young, beautiful, wealthy, and happy people are drinking a certain brand of whisky? And what does a commercial convey when a housewife, who could model for Victoria’ Secret, is using a particular vacuum cleaner in a well-lit house in front of a husband smiling at her lovingly? Well, if the message is conveyed implicitly, we swallow it without question. And to some extent, it convinces us that things are indeed this way.

In short, soothing or solemn images and music convince us without us realizing it. But how do advertisers convince us when the message cannot be expressed with sounds and images because it requires linguistic formulation?

They formulate it IMPLICITLY. For example, Philips has invested a lot of money to spread this advertisement:

“Let Philips open your eyes

New Matchline “Panorama”

The widest screen television.”

Here Philips presupposes, without asserting it, that we are living with our eyes closed. Essentially, that we are poor souls living a half-life. If they were to explicitly say, “You live with your eyes closed”, we would find it exaggerated and offensive. So instead, we let them say it to us. And we let car manufacturers say more or less the same things, because instead of asserting them, they presuppose them:

“Don’t look at the world through others’ eyes. Open yours.”

“Renault KADJAR – Stop watching, start living.”

Citroën insinuates – like Philips – that we live with our eyes closed, and Renault that we’re not even living, but merely watching life. We let all this be said to us, and indeed it’s profitable to be told, because it’s said implicitly. Just as it’s not explicitly asserted that our eyes would open, or we would start living for real, by buying a Philips screen, a Citroën DS4, and a Renault Kadjar. They let us imply this by almost innocently juxtaposing the headline with the product image. WE make the connection, that is, the dirty work: they don’t say explicitly, but suggest in a way that we conclude without realizing it, that buying that stuff will save us from a mediocre and unhappy life.

In the same way, Alfa Romeo has built this advertisement around a father and a son, where what is directly asserted is not the important part of the message:

“…and I felt grown-up with my first Alfa.”

The implicit information is more important. Non-linguistic cues, such as the appearance of the couch and the presence of a plant, suggesting an elegant and spacious home, hence affluence; or the similarity between their hairstyles, implying a son following in his father’s footsteps. But also linguistic implicit information: the message is crafted to use the expression ‘my first Alfa,’ presupposing a series of subsequent Alfas. If the advertisement explicitly stated, ‘those who buy an Alfa then buy more,’ the target audience would realize it’s an unfounded claim. But in the form of implicit presupposition, we end up convincing ourselves sufficiently.

The Audi advertisement, aired thirty years later, using exactly the same expression, confirms the effectiveness of this strategy.

Political propaganda also often leverages the persuasive power of implicit messages.