Shock without Awe?

Posted by Parthiv Shah on Sep 16, 2021 8:00:00 AM

Parthiv Shah

Let’s face it, we are completely bombarded with marketing every day. Everywhere we go, anytime we watch TV, every time we look something up online – there are ads. So, as an advertiser or marketer, it can be very challenging to stand out from the crowd and make people look at your ad. Welcome to the world of shock advertising!

You have probably seen many a lot of shock advertising before

Think of all those climate changes and anti-smoking PSAs that were designed to scare people into action. Calvin Klein even had a string of advertisements in the late 90s that were widely criticized for being “too sexual”. These ads definitely grabbed our attention, but did they work?


There are advantages to shock advertising

These ads usually garner far more attention than traditional approaches. Plus, the explosive nature of shock adverts can also cause the ad to go viral on social media or cause a storm of attention from the media.


Shock advertising comes with drawbacks as well

As the name suggests, shock advertising is shocking. They are designed to rattle people’s perceptions, play on their stereotypes, and sometimes offend. Common themes in shock adverts have been sexual in nature, grotesque, violent, gory, or just absurd. Large companies and corporations can mess with their audience, but generally smaller businesses suffer. If you make an offensive ad, you may offend your audience and they might avoid your business in the future. Even worse, some particularly shocking ads have been met with legal action.


Another major drawback with shock advertising is that repeat offenders generally become associated with a negative image

Think of Al Gore and his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”. Will he ever not be associated with the scary issues of climate change? Probably not. Noble as it is, most smaller businesses cannot risk having a negative image from repeated shock advertising. Sexually explicit content, inappropriate language, gory or gross imagery, will all stick not just to the advertisement but the company that produced it.


So, is it worth it?

Honestly, you would have to test it. Depending on the product, the audience and the media, it may generate the results you want. You won't know until you check the data.


Some final thoughts 

Right now, cheeky, irreverent marketing is working well for many businesses. And with the way the world is right now, maybe some fun instead of shock, is what you need to use.


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Topics: Business Growth

 parthiv shah


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