Mike Huckabee, one of various Republican presidential hopefuls, has staged a remarkable surge in the polls in recent weeks. Part of this is no doubt due to his low-key but appealing demeanor and the fact that he exhibits a sense of humor, a rare thing for politicians (at least in public). Another part has been his appeal to Christian voters – he’s an ordained Baptist minister, and hasn’t been shy about mentioning his faith. Fox News points out that his latest TV commercial takes this appeal to a new level: a brightly illuminated frame that forms a prominent cross image in the background next to his face.

It’s hard to understand why the creators of this ad saw a need to substitute a subtle cross shape for the real thing – the ad includes plenty of overt religious references, including Silent Night playing in the background and spoken phrases like, “At this time of year, sometimes it’s nice to pull aside from all of that and remember that what really matters is the celebration of the birth of Christ.” Perhaps they thought that a “real” cross would have been overkill. The bright white cross shape they ended up with is so obvious as to hardly qualify as subliminal.

This is a good time to remind everyone, though, to pay attention to what’s happening in ads in other than “front and center” positions. Just because you are watching the speaker in the foreground doesn’t mean your brain isn’t processing background imagery or activity. Campaign 2008 should provide some interesting fodder for those who have an interest in advertising in general and neuromarketing in particular.

Here’s the full ad:

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