Shock Advertising: Manipulation of Fear, Shame and Guilt

Day by day, organisations or institutions are trying to grab our attention through Shockvertising. Also, it is observed and proven through research, people quickly and easily respond to Shockvertising, a kind of emotional appeal and pro-social advertising which is used in the commercial market. What all they have in common is that they are confronting people on societal issues like child labour, breast cancer, drugs, alcohol, child prostitution etc. This recently boomed enormously in the field of social media and public health campaigns. Surely, shockvertising brings the abruptness and the surprise element which leads and appeals one’s attention and understanding. As per the research and surveys conducted, Shockvertising assuredly works and has more impact when it comes and involves emotions and sense of fear, guilt and shame. This can be seen as the result of the research on mixed emotion appeals which says that the amalgamation of emotions used in the advertising can be more effective than the emphasis on one emotion.

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For me, the most meaningful aspect resulted after going through the study which showed that the negative emotional appeals like that of fear, shame and guilt call for more self-protection and inaction rather than positive responses agreeing to comply. Being a part of the PR world back in India and working with social media influencers never grasped my attention towards this thought. But while studying this module, I actually realised, this is such a better way to make people understand and bring a positive change in their habit. Furthermost, another interesting and useful learning which I got after going through the core reading is that the concept of shame is related to an explicit cluster of the participants. It can’t be felt unless kindled within the group context. The fear appeals work in a more resultant way. On the other hand, guilt can be a driving factor but only when convoyed by some hope that individual action is equally required and capable of making the vital social change.

On a personal level, I feel Shockvertising has both positive and negative sides and how whether the negative emotional appeals are ethical or not to use in Social Marketing. If we see a positive side, it helps in underlining things which are important to us. Eventually, leading to help in realising and thinking more about life, it’s safety and other social concerns. But on the other negative side, using the power of fear to manipulate the human behaviour by exposing them to distressing and disturbing images can result in amplifying anxiety amongst those utmost at risk. As a part of the PR industry in my previous work experience, gave me a mindset that even a negative kind of publicity is publicity. This is similar to thoughts and mindset, I have regarding the Shockvertising. Though they are shocking and confronting but it increases all the right attention of the audience and lasts long in the memory while benefiting them. This is because people are more expected to recollect shocking content over one that is created and constructed on a feel-good kind of information and knowledge. Also, Shocking ads are extremely effective in terms of realizing and accomplishing further desirable behaviour. This makes me believe and support the fact of coming up with ideas and strategies which directly affect the emotional appeals of the audience.

Having gone through the journal and analysing the research shown and explained, I now think that different people have different views about this Shockvertising and how they attack on the negative emotions of the people. For some people, it can be a message which awakens their inner thoughts and realisation and act as a saviour. For some, it can be a trouble and disturbing initiator. I feel they can surely be used in social marketing campaigns around the globe to make people aware and come as a remedy to societal infirmities. Additionally, I have learned that it is a kind of universal sign similar to that of smile or tears which everyone can recognize and relate to. This corresponds to a lot of effectiveness. I have slightly improved my understanding of Shockvertising and negative emotions appeal and this makes me feel that volunteer compliance with socially valued principles and ethics requires an attention of how individuals can be inspired and motivated to act.

This knowledge along with the mindset of the organizations and the attitude of the individuals can be useful to me as a learner and a future marketer because in future after joining a media organisation, I will have an insight and experience about how to advert a product in order to make it more impactful and relatable. Also, until now, going through numerous examples in the class and in the journals, I understand how social issues through this form of advertising creates a holistic impact. As a next step, I need to bring this way into more practice by becoming a part of advertising and social media agencies in order to focus more on the issues like Domestic Violence, Prostitution, Sexual abuse which can break the silence of the present social structure that precludes the individualization identity of the women. 

29 April 2022

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