Some great points in the above comments and especially the fact that many forms of advertising messages can indeed be picked up subliminally.
Remember too that advertising comes in various forms - the role of any marketer, from an advertising perspective, is to draw upon a range of multi-disciplinary skills including 'above the line' promotion (TV, outdoor, press, radio) and 'below the line' (direct marketing, sponsorships, pr, online and consumer promotions).
Below are some examples of advertising of whisky through the ages:
An example of how advertising and brands were built up in the early 20th century (predominately in London and then in the US) can be learned from a visit to Dewars 'World of Whisky' at Aberfeldy. This gives great examples of how Dewars built up their brand identity through billboard advertising.
A great example of this in action today is how Macallan is being pushed globally by Maxiim as a 'prestige' brand in many above the line campaigns aimed at generating high-margin sales.
From another polarised perspective Bruichladdich with a limited marketing budget, compared to Diageo and the likes, are focusing their efforts on PR, be it rather 'quirky' press coverage or using Jim McEwan as global ambassador.
Another good example is, from another thread, Glenlivet inviting us to become 'Guardians' (I got my key through yesterday
) and both Laphroaig and Ardbeg, among many others, offering special priveleges to their members as tools to build brand loyalty.
A final example is the product placement used by Diageo in recent Bond films, another form of very discrete/tactical advertising, but again mass market.
All above are examples of fairly clever and tactical advertising that many other distillers could learn from. Indeed many modern campaigns are intentional soft-sell, warm messages to make us feel all nice about their products and relate to their brand identity and become loyal and 'entrenched' consumers of their brands.
I would point out though that above the line advertising in general is targeted at the mass consumer, rather than contributors to these forums who would be targeted by all the below-the-line stuff like memberships to societies etc.
Certainly the world of whisky advertising is a fascinating one and arguably how the whole industry was built over a century ago.