Shock sells, even when we don’t like the message
Don’t you hate it when you see an advertisement on television that you love or you think is really clever, and then a week later, you discover that the ad has been taken off the air because of complaints.
It can be frustrating sometimes, obviously complaining doesn’t guarantee that an ad will be banned but it does highlight how we can take some things very seriously.
I remember not long ago the Hyundai “Toddler” commercial that showed a little toddler taking his Hyundai out for a drive. Along the way he stopped to pick up a female hitchhiking toddler and the two of them headed to the coast where he later impressed her with his surfing skills by riding a massive wave.
I thought the ad was very cute but it later got banned by the ASB because it sent the wrong message to pre-schoolers about driving cars. Really?
The ad was a fantasy, the little toddler could barely reach the steering wheel of his huge car, let alone drive it and what does it say about toddlers hitchhiking to the west coast and their ability to ride waves on surf-boards.
This was one of those situations where I thought the ASB had taken things much too far. We’ve heard all the facts about children mimicking what they see, the copycat actions and violence, but was this very likely? Aren’t our kids exposed to much more graphic things than this?
There’s lots of ads out there that get banned because they offend someone and I suppose at the end of the day, it is a subjective thing, everybody has limits to what they will or will not accept and often there is really no true right or wrong– but where do shock ads lie in all of this?
Recently there has been outrage over a French anti-smoking ad series that shows a man pushing a kneeling teen towards his crotch area from where a cigarette appears to protrude. The slogan beneath the image translates, “Smoking makes you a slave to tobacco!”
It’s a series of three ads showing two boys and one girl. Understandably, many have been offended by the images and there’s been calls for the campaign to be banned. I can’t say that I disagree. They’re using one awful thing to try to prevent another, that seems counter-productive but it does reignite the debate about shock advertisements.
Shock grabs attention and advertisers know it, but sometimes they go much too far and the question of how that makes us feel is a troubling one.
Organisations, causes and public awareness campaigns can often strike some of the biggest chords because aside from the means with which they deliver their message, they often have a moral high ground as a buffer. I think that’s a good thing, these messages are important.
I’ve seen road safety advertisements, so graphic and disturbing, that I’ve felt the urge to look away, but I’ve never complained about them because at the end of the day, a road accident is something we all want to prevent.
But I do wonder, why does the shock have to be so extreme, have we seen so many advertisements that we’ve become desensitised or that we simply switch off? Is there a need to find new and more shocking ways to catch our attention – clearly the French non-smokers rights association thinks so, which is worrying.
I thought we’d already reached a pretty graphic stage in that global campaign. No longer do we see the traditional cowboy smoking the cigarette before he rides off into the sunset on his horse, instead now-a-days we’re more likely to see the dissection of his brain or lung, depicting the damage that years of smoking has done.
I’m not supporting the tobacco industry, I was just shocked by the ad.
We’re exposed to stronger images these days and my guess is that we must need them – perhaps our lives are too frantic and too advanced to be overly concerned and it takes a major shock to open our eyes.
Studies have shown that we are exposed to between 850-3000 commercial messages a day – how much can we really take in. I don’t know if shock sells, but it certainly gets our attention.
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