Shock Advertising: Definition and explanation
Shock Advertising is the types of advertisements are intended to shock people and generate controversies in order to make people remember them. They are mostly designed using disgusting images, profanity and obscenity, religious taboos, vulgarity, sexual references, and impropriety and are often controversial, and disturbing, and may involve daring and provocative and offensive political messages that challenge the public’s simple and conventional understanding of the social norms and order. Many such advertisements went too far over the limit, in their mission to be "edgy" and were rejected or banned completely (26 Incredibly Daring Ads That Were Made To Shock You, n.d.)
It is a type of advertising, which deliberately, scares and annoy its audience by breaking the rules for social values and personal etiquettes. It is the use of “graphic imagery and blunt slogans” to highlight or focus a product, service or public policy issue. Shock advertising or Shockvertising is purposefully designed to capture the attention of the audience and create buzz, and also to attract an audience towards a certain brand or bring consciousness and awareness towards a certain health issue and public service issue or cause behind any such issues. Discouraging smoking between teens, advice drivers to use their seatbelts, bringing awareness and consciousness about racial discrimination and other injustices are some examples.
For instance, Benetton, the Italian clothing and garment retailer pioneered the style in the 1980s, and it has received mixed reviews, many were irritated at the imagery that was used in the advertisements, but others praised them, as they attracted the attention on the social issues like social and human rights. Benetton was bold enough to attack the taboos of the present age and situation, AIDS and used genuine images to create consciousness, in the year 1991, in its award-winning advertisement, showed a snapshot of “father holding the lifeless body of his son in a hospital bed’’. (26 Incredibly Daring Ads That Were Made To Shock You, n.d.)
But shock advertisements can also bounce back enormously. The World Wildlife Fund's Brazilian branch invoked international rage with an advertisement about the 2009 tsunami disaster that depicted dozens of airplanes flying towards the World Trade Centre. (26 Incredibly Daring Ads That Were Made To Shock You, n.d.)
The advertisement of Italian designer Dolce and Gabbana was compelled to pull a campaign of extremely sexual advertisements in 2007 which some claimed to be a glorified gang rape. This style of advertisement has become very popular among the advertising agencies globally, and many organisations continue this to raise and embrace awareness for their causes, among the common masses. The question is, does this shock or risky advertisements work? Are they brilliant and daring in their approach, or is it plain and offensive? (26 Incredibly Daring Ads That Were Made To Shock You, n.d.)
How shock advertisements are used
The ways in which the appeal of shock advertising is used can be explained with the help of the following example. The advertisements from the Non-Smokers' Rights Association (NSR), created by French agency BDDP and Fils, portrays oral sex in a shock advertisement campaign to stop teens from smoking and lighting up. The message delivered was “if you let your children smoke, it’s child abuse”. (Melinda, 2010)
Some say the advertisement if offensive and of bad taste, others say that there was nothing vulgar in it. But possibly the main problem here was with the initial ‘shock’ of the image. (Melinda, 2010). Using ‘shock’ can work. We know that cigarettes are harmful to us; it is the reason the government has forced the cigarette companies to display graphic images on the packets to stop people from smoking or lighting up. People knows how much cigarettes harm them, but to see it graphically on a packet creates a shocking sensation them. By some means, it becomes more real and authentic, and it can also sometimes become shocking. The real risk in advertising is that it is not being noticed at all. For public service campaigns, and THINK campaigns, for example, the images that show horrific car accidents and advices not to drink and drive, seems to work for charities and government agencies.
Although these types of campaigns may have succeeded in grabbing and attracting attention of the common mass, they often tend to dilute the appeal of the product. Creating and developing an emotional appeal and connection is vital to effective marketing campaigns and these advertisements do what they are expected to do: evoke a shocking feeling in order to create a buzz, in addition, what one person sees as offensive or provocative, another person will call it as creative and that ultimately equal the success and accomplishments. (Melinda, 2010)
Types of shock advertisements and several popular examples of shock advertisements
- Disgusting Images: It includes bloody body parts, bodily harm, death, decay.
Example: Sony PSP Retry Ad:
The advertisement for Sony's Play Station Portable player gives a shocking visual of different body parts, with hands and legs and other organs all over the place. The intention of the company was to generate instant interest in its products by creating shock advertising, creating brand recognition, attracts its customers, critics and the media. (Sony PSP Retry Ad, 2008)
Example: Guerrilla Marketing for Death Proof:
Amsterdam street walkers were shocked to see an arm was holding a copy of the Death Proof DVD, the latest movie starring Quentin Tarantino; the bloody limbs were found one of the largest cinemas in Netherlands. The campaign was done by New Message; intension was to attract some new consumers who are interested in some new products that will shock them in some way. (Guerrilla Marketing for Death Proof, 2007)
Example: Just liquid hand wash
With the shock advertisement, the message that was supposed to be conveyed was that if the hands are not cleaned with Just handwasf, they can be categorised as filthy.
Example: United Colors of Benetton
United Colors of Benetton, a French label is another fashion brand which is continuously causing shock. It used images of a newly born baby complete with the umbilical cord in one of their outdoor campaigns.
- Moral Offensiveness: It includes harming innocent people and animals, violence
Example: CONCEPT 'Don't Lose Control' Child Abuse Ad:
Domestic violence can scare a child. The objective of this ad campaign is to protect children or shield children from human trafficking, and these ads would shockingly reinforce their mission.(CONCEPT 'Don't Lose Control' Child Abuse Ad, 2008)
Example: Humans for Animals -- "Seal" (France, 2005)
Example: The Romanian Police child Help Billboard for Child violence
The disturbing image was to captivate an audience with the ugliness of abuse. The advertisements were launched in underground stations with heavy footfalls, and a telephone was provided with each advertisement. Also, business cards were kept with each advertisement so that passersby can pick up the business cards, and the initiative spreads as a word of mouth.
- Thought provoking:
Example: Indian anti-smoking ad
This campaign provided people with food for thought. By reflecting the image of a random smoker, holding his wife as a cigarette in between his fingers conveyed the message loud and clear. The image of the wife holding reflects her angst and frustration with the habit of smoking.
Though the shock advertisements scare people, it is good that theobjective is always wellbeing of the common mass by giving them shock therapy. And good advices are always acceptable.
26 Incredibly Daring Ads That Were Made To Shock You (n.d.) Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/shock-ads-2011- 7?IR=Tandtru=H3I4G#mettiamocilatestait-dont-cut-a-dream-italy-2009-10
CONCEPT 'Don't Lose Control' Child Abuse Ad (2008). Trendhunter. Retrieved from http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/shocking-uk-ad-child-abuse
Guerrilla Marketing for Death Proof (2007). Trendhunter. Retrieved from http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/tarantino-death-proof-guerrilla-marketing
Melinda, V. (2010). When to use the 'shock' factor and why it works. Retrieved from http://www.utalkmarketing.com/pages/article.aspx?articleid=16945andtitle=when-to- use-the-%27shock%27-factor-and-why-it-works
Sony PSP Retry Ad (2008). Trendhunter. Retrieved from http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/sony-psp-retry-ad
Top 50 Shockvertisements (n.d.). Trendhunter. Retrieved from http://www.trendhunter.com/slideshow/top- 50-shock-controversial-ads