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Responsible or not? Shockvertising

By October 30, 2008 September 5th, 2019 6 Comments
shocking advertising

Trendhunter did my homework for me today and compiled a four minute collection of shocking ads that will leave you asking the question, “How far is too far?”

You won’t want to view this in front of small children or your boss. It features fake lesbians, phony murder scenes, employees getting punched in the face in slo-mo and some naughty videos that speak for themselves.

As advertisers get more desperate to break through, shockvertisers are getting more extreme on every level.

Some of these campaigns have resulted in complaints, injury and legal action. Others have alienated a significant proportion of the audience they were trying to reach.

All that said, shockvertising does something safe marketing seldom can: It breaks through, drives word of mouth, and often goes viral.

So, is shockvertising is Responsible Marketing or not?

Comment below to weigh in.

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Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Nedra says:

    Won’t somebody please think of the children????

    Seriously, the line of acceptability has been pushed so far by marketers that in order to get people’s attention, brands think they need to cross over to the other side. There is a social cost to this type of marketing, especially when unintended audiences are exposed. Parents can keep their kids from seeing inappropriate TV or magazine ads by limiting access to these media. But it might not be possible to know to avoid walking with your kids past the realistic-looking murder victims if they are on a high-traffic sidewalk. Just on the way to school, we pass billboards with nearly naked 10-foot high people and sexually suggestive slogans that I don’t enjoy having to (figure out how not to) explain to my young kids.

    “By any means necessary” should not apply to marketing perfume and SUVs. And the fear appeals are often not even effective on the health and social issues, backfiring by scaring people and not letting the message sink in.

    If you want more on my take, I wrote about a similar issue last year:
    http://www.social-marketing.com/blog/2007/01/rude-crude-socially-unacceptable.html

  • I think #3,2,1 were pretty ridiculous. It’s all about the brand image that you are trying to display. If you want your brand to be dirty, disgusting, shocking, well then there you go–bring on the shockvertising.

    The core problem here is there is too much clutter in today’s advertising environment. Everyone wants to interrupt us with banners, billboards, tv, radio–traditional advertisements that we really don’t want to see. You have to do something truly remarkable that get’s people talking to get people’s attention anymore. I don’t see anything wrong with this, unfortunately the mortality of some of these ads are viewed as subpar.

    Don’t interrupt people, unless it’s a REALLY REALLY GOOD message.

  • Patrick–First, I’m so glad you’re asking the question; that is at least encouraging. I think one of the very interesting things about Obama’s campaign is his refusal to speak to the reptilian/fear-drenched part of our brains, and has steadfastly stayed with his message.
    The problem is in the “steadfast.” It takes maybe 21 months of on-message talk to raise the level of the whole conversation. Fear and loathing is just so quick, it’s nearly impossible to resist. And marketing–how many companies are willing to do a 20 month campaign that builds slow and rational to a strong finish? few, me thinks.
    This is not only *not responsible*, it is destructive and demeaning to us a culture and community.
    Thanks for asking the very good question!

  • Deston says:

    Most of it is overwrought crap, or just self-involved pornography. For one thing, those aren’t the lesbians I’ve seen in Portland — not that there’s anything wrong with it. And I’ve had sex with a scorpion. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The stuff isn’t even that shocking. I think it fails on all levels.

  • Don’t tell anyone, but stuff like this is one of the primary reasons why we canceled our cable two years ago and 9/10’s of our magazine subscriptions.

    And Cass, three cheers: brilliantly said.

    The influence of social media combined with the fact that the power truly is in the hands of the individual to make or break a brand (or simply ignore it to death) – and the people are really starting to get that – means this kind of screamfest will eventuallly peter out.

    BTW – if you haven’t already, give Seth Godin’s new book Tribes a read. He makes the compelling (and dare I say, inspiring?) case fthat marketers are the new leaders of socio-economic and even cultural change – and its time to step up to the gate with our values and integrity out front.

    This conversation – and the existence of this blog – confirm he’s right (again).

  • The fact that this video is on this blog and I’m sure 100 other blogs and that people are commenting on it has shown that this advertising has worked. These brands did things so outrageous that they got compiled into a video like this and have thus reached 100times farther then just the advertising stunt.

    It’s completely fine. I understand that some people might see this as going to far but this is what brands have to do to succeed. The competition is fierce and you have to try all angles. Maybe these brands won’t do this again because it got them negative feedback but maybe all this negative feedback made so many headlines it caused more sales. The point it you have to think outside the box. Experiment and see what works and what doesn’t.

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