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    Is shock advertising effective?

    Picture of Renata Kaminska
    Renata Kaminska 14, July 2022

    People are most motivated by fear.

    This is such an old adage that its use in advertising can be considered a kind of classic. Humans are emotional beings and are built in such a way that everyone is afraid of something in life. At every stage of life, we feel fear of something else. However, the feeling of losing something motivates us doubly to defend it effectively. This motif can most often be found in advertisements for cosmetics or medicines. The fear of losing teeth encourages us to take care of them more effectively. There are plenty of such examples. However, the message does not always have to be so explicit. An advertisement of a supplement for fatigue or a bad mood can exploit our fear of, for example, losing our job or worsening family relations. It all depends on ingenuity and who the target audience is supposed to be.

     

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    Ads based on this should be successful and become more common.

    Seth Godin even believed that using the theme of fear is the fastest way to build a brand. Is it really the most effective? I don’t fully agree with that. However, I am an advocate of its use. The vast majority of campaigns that use it are able to generate interest and great attention. Whether this is negative or positive is quite another matter.

    Precisely because this type of action is often controversial, it has both supporters and opponents. As I have already mentioned, I count myself among the former. However, are ‘scary adverts’ the only factor that tends to cause a fume? Of course not. They fall into a genre called shockvertising, or shock advertising. What drives any such advertising is agitation and strong emotion regardless of its source. It may be outrage, horror or disgust.

     

    Advertising must provoke and lead to scandal.

    That is why sex, death or ugliness are willingly used for creation.  Although they are often taboo, they are also great for sales campaigns. Thanks to the fact that the advertising message plays with human emotions, it is more noticeable in the media information noise. Above all, this is due to the effect of surprise, as our brains are used to patterns and stereotypes. For example, when we sit in a boring history class, we start to relax, get sleepy, and as a result, we switch off and the information reaching us goes into a blank space. The same lecture delivered by actors disguised as Hitler and Stalin would certainly have attracted more attention. Shock in advertising by shattering patterns works on the same principle. A cool example is the viral “A Girl, Her Tongue and a Hotel Room” created by Mullen agency for Extended Stay America. In order to convince guests of the highest level of cleanliness in their hotel rooms, the hotel chain presented a toilet bowl test conducted with the tongue of an attractive blonde girl.

     

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    Shock advertising usually operates on the verge of good taste and crosses taboos.

    It is often based on sexual associations, sometimes even approaching the phenomenon of pornography. Everything to attract attention and arouse surprise. Products are effectively sold by appealing to our sexual emotions. Even if they have nothing to do with sex. This is perfectly illustrated by the campaign of the Australian surfing costume manufacturer Radiator. It presented a series of adverts showing naked surfers in various positions from India’s Kamasutra with the slogan “Improve your flexibility”. And Deutsch magazine released a cover showing a German Shepherd and a sexy blonde in an ambiguous situation.

     

    Shock advertising is also often used in social advertising

    Good example is Amnesty International. This is often due to the small budget, and shock can ensure that the social issue raised in the ad does not go unnoticed. Some people take the view that this type of advertising is a cheap shot and distasteful. I am of the opinion that they are effective because the message they convey reaches us and forces us to reflect. The fact that shock advertising arouses emotions and finds whole crowds of both supporters and opponents only confirms the power and advantage of this form of advertising. Shock advertising has no right to disappear into the clutter of other advertising messages or be met with indifference.

     

    Renata Kaminska 2

    Renata Kaminska

    Founder & Business Development


    Renata is our marketing aficionado with over 12 years experience of working with household brands such as IBM, Discovery Channel, TLC, KPMG, Pirelli, Kaspersky, Nokia & Space Research Centre. She was also involved in Eurosport rebranding.
     
     
     
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