Boo! Does Shock Advertising Really Work?

shock advertisingWhen marketing products or services, sometimes advertisers turn to scare tactics or shock advertising. This is the practice of violating social, religious, or political norms and presenting it to an audience with the intention of eliciting an emotional response.

It is difficult to debate the alarming effect that these advertisements have on viewers, but are they persuasive? To answer this question, we turn to a study conducted by Darren Dahl in 2003. Dahl argues that shocking ads do indeed evoke stronger feelings in audiences. He suggests that shocking content greatly increases attention, fosters a memorable environment, and positively influences behavior.

While this type of marketing is often based on something spooky, it can also be designed to create other strong emotional appeals, such as; humor, sex, or anger. Among most professionals, humor is seen to be the most effective, but when a space becomes too saturated with comedic elements, other avenues become more attractive.

There are symptoms of shock advertising to consider, other than its immediate effectiveness. Long-term issues can arise if marketers create an association between disturbing pictures or messages, and a company’s brand. Ethical concerns come into play when considering these campaigns. For this reason, fear or forceful messages may not always be the most effective approach.

Here are few of our favorite examples or shock advertising.

This advertisement combines a striking image with an even more alarming headline design to evoke a chilling sensation in its audience.

shock advertising

This image plays on emotional appeal while presenting a visually shocking image to illuminate the flawed lens that people view others through.

shock advertising

This approach is maybe a bit too “on the nose” for some, but it combines the shock of a vulgar post, the relatability of a testimonial, and the draw of the millennial audience all in one succinct image.

shock advertising

While there are many factors to consider when implementing shock advertising, it’s ability to stand out cannot be denied. If you or one of your clients is looking to make a splash, this may be an avenue to pursue.

To learn more about advertising techniques like this and much more, check out this section of the initiate-it blog: Advertising

Posted by Tom Hinkes, Account Executive & Content Marketing Writer at initiate-it, a digital first, full-service agency located in Richmond, VA.

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