Awesome Examples of Optical Illusions in Advertising


    Optical Illusions in AdvertisingWe live in the computer age. Show us a picture of a giant snake squeezing a city bus or a woman standing next to her 12′ tall house cat, and without missing a beat, we’ll exclaim “cool photo manip.” In this era of photo manipulations and image brushing, it’s getting harder and harder for advertisers to pull the wool over our eyes by using images – we all know those images have been faked using the most recent image editing software.

    What are Visual Illusions?

    Most of us have experienced an illusion of one kind or another in the real world – like seeing a mirage or catching a glimpse of something that we couldn’t identify out of the corner of our eye – and getting seriously spooked by whatever it was. Our eyes were fooled. Or should we say our visual system was fooled – because that is what is really happening. When experiencing an optical (eye) illusion, you are actually experiencing a “visual illusion” that is centered in the cortex in your brain – the area of the brain that processes visual information – and that has been tricked into seeing something that is not really there.

    Illusions can be Mesmerizing

    Illusions can be bad, like when someone flying an airplane sees a false horizon or a runway warped by heat waves. Or illusions can be good, like on a highway in Chicago; the city gets drivers to slow down by making them think they’re going faster than they really are by painting the stripes on the road closer together.

    And illusions can be used by those who have a stake in grabbing and keeping your attention. Ads are there to catch your eye – to cause you to pause and look and buy – and advertisers use a variety of methods to do that, most utilizing familiar shapes, color and movement.

    Thanks to visual illusions, advertisers can catch and hold your eye – in a way that is almost mesmerizing – without any actual movement taking place. It’s all done with visual illusions like these:

    1. Sony Corporation grabs your attention with a colorful image that seems to move while sending the message that their line of Bravia computer monitors provide crystal clear images and colors that just about jump off the page.

    Bravia computer monitors - ad

    2. Foreign car maker Subaru uses this visual illusion of four wheels turning to remind you that their cars can provide you with Permanent All Wheel Drive.

    Permanent All Wheel Drive

    3. Wonderbra’s use of a visual illusion will make you smile – who can help but think of someone’s eyes growing huge at the site of a woman wearing a Wonderbra?


    4. Audi Quattro Cup Golf Tournament used this visual illusion of a spiraling time tunnel for its 2009 add campaign and invited the world to fall down the hole on the green.


    Illusions can be fun and many are invented every day. There’s even an international contest to choose the best illusion each year. Check out “The Break of the Curve Ball” to see the first place winner of 2009 and “Impossible Motion” to see the winner in 2010 – and see if they can fool your cortex.


    1. says

      I just found this blog and I love it. My eyes hurt a bit on this post but I could not stop staring. The odd thing is, I will probably remember these visual illusions in reference the named advertisers. I think that could be another reason why they do it. Cognitive processes never cease to amaze me.

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