An extremely effective strategy for grabbing our attention when it comes to ads is the use of fear! Tapping in to our emotions is a very successful way for an ad to get noticed. There are some ads out there that are designed to shock, scare, upset and even disappoint you. According to Peter Russell and Senta Singerland – Editors of the book ‘Game Changers: The Evolution of Advertising’- they describe how it is ‘logical of a business to want to keep as many of its customers alive as possible’. Predominately, the ads that involve the use of fear are generally speaking social or environmental efforts to help change societies perception of an issue. The use of fear appeals, “stress the negative consequences of either engaging or not engaging in the behaviour” (Algie, J, 2015). There have been numerous occasions where I have shed a tear, cringed or wanted to turn the TV off as a result of watching a marketing effort that includes fear.
One particular ad, created in the 80’s used shock and fear quite well to make their point. Greenpeace in 1985 supported a Lynx campaign fighting the International Fur trade. The video ad titled Dumb Animals, directed by David Bailey had women walking down the catwalk all wearing fur. The fashion industry and media all in the crowd are smiling and clapping. When the models get to the end of the catwalk and turn, blood sprays off in to the audience. They then walk back up the runway with blood pouring out from underneath the fur. The closing slide – “It takes up to 40 dumb animals to make a fur coat. But only one to wear it”. Not only is the audience in the ad shocked and scared, this same reaction then happens to you as well when you finish watching it.
A second ad, a print ad – the Heroin Baby, created by Barnado’s “took shock tactics to new levels” according to Cannes Lions. As you can see in the below image, it shows a baby about to inject itself with heroin. The point of this ad is to ‘prevent difficult experiences in early life will result in more emotionally balanced adults’ (Russel P, Singerland S. 2013). The ad received a lot of ‘negative PR at the time’ (Russel P, Singerland S. 2013), which overrode the initial message. This is sometimes what happens with the use of fear in advertising. The use of fear in ads is “questioned as to its effectiveness due to perceptual defence” (Algie J, 2015). If an ad uses too much fear, it can be criticised for being negative, rather than getting the message across effectively. Mass Media advertising needs to be especially clear when it comes to using fear appeals as the ad reaches a large proportion of the populations. ‘If mass media ads are used effectively as a deterrent’ (Lewis I, et.al. 2007), it addresses the issue successfully. If not, it will be criticised thus not succeeding in getting the desired message across. There is a thin line between creating a persuasive message and people wanting to not watch your ad.
Algie, J. 2015. MARK217 Attitudes: 2015 lecture notes, 30th April 2015, University of Wollongong, Semester 1, 2015.
Lewis, I., Watson, B., Tay, R., & White, K. M. (2007). The role of fear appeals in improving driver safety: A review of the effectiveness of fear-arousing (threat) appeals in road safety advertising.International Journal of Behavioural Consultation and Therapy, 3(2), 203-222. <http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0100799>
Russell P & Singerland S. 2013. Game Changers: The Evolution of Advertising. Taschen for Cannes Lions.