Problems with shockvertising campaigns

I had some responses to my last post on shockvertising. I agree with Liv that I’d rather see a more positive approach – maybe a dad with his kids, saying “keep him safe” and not an example of “what terrible thing will happen to this family man.”

This ad from Ontario shows how severe workplace injuries can be (link to more below)

Cathrin commented on the post, saying she doesn’t think the ads will motivate people to change.

“I think people do get desensitized to anything if they are motivated to want to do something like read their friend’s latest text,” Cathrin wrote in her comment. “They can think: ‘Oh, those poor girls in the video, but that won’t happen to me because I’ll be careful and just take a quick peek!’”

Maybe the viewers see people texting and driving and think “I’ll just text and drive more carefully.”

Unlike the actors, they would not look away from the road so long when they texted. They would do it quickly and more safely – getting away with it because they perceive themselves to be smarter than the actors in the video.

A University of Southern Florida professor reportedly says shocking ads may make people more likely to do what they warn against.

In his study, “Social Marketing and Distracted Driving Behaviors among Young Adults: The Effectiveness of Fear Appeals“, Dr. Ron Lennon asked 840 college students how likely they were, on a scale from 1 to 7, to “text and drive” and “talk and drive” before and after watching the videos.

Here’s what he reported: “Before the videos were shown, the average for texting and driving was 3.44 and for talking and driving was 4.31. After watching the videos, the average for texting went up to 3.54, a 3 percent increase, while the average for talking went up to 5.15, a statistically significant increase of 11 percent.”

Dr. Lennon’s research supports the idea of a “boomerang effect” that is sometimes seen with smoking warnings. Some people have a desire to smoke even more than they already did before seeing the ad.

Maybe the ads touch a nerve of rebellion in some people, especially teens and young adults who are sick of being told what to do. Rebelling against a strong message may give them a feeling of satisfaction.

“Research indicates that many well-intentioned campaigns to get us to modify our poor behavior are having the opposite effect, and that attempts to restrict a person’s freedom often cause them to respond with an equally strong counter response,” reads the article.

Do these ads desensitize viewers or bring out their rebellion? What do you think?

Here is a series of the very graphic shockvertising videos I mentioned in my last post, from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario.


2 thoughts on “Problems with shockvertising campaigns

  1. Cathrin

    That is really an interesting study. I think that those shock ads can put people over the edge away from caution. They think, well I’ve seen the worst and they need to tell themselves it won’t happen to them. Otherwise, they’d be terrorized. These are the type of images that we just can’t have running through our minds on a regular basis. I wonder if ads showing people having fender benders and then having to spend hours on the phone with insurance companies, car rentals etc. would be more effective. That’s the type of caution people can keep in their minds.

  2. Dan

    WSIB did a follow-up series of ads that showed an “accident” about to happen but didn’t because of safety:

    I found the first ones alone might help wake up some people (especially the restaurant one) but combined as a one-two punch with the second ad where the accident is prevented is much more effective. When I saw the second set of ads for the first time I was waiting to see how graphic it would be and was surprised at the last second when it was ok, it kept my full attention on the screen.


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