Shock Tactics in Advertising --

I'll try to create some continuity with my posts this time by featuring another public awareness campaign. This time it's an initiative of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Canada who launched two sites: and Their aim is clearly to educate the public with an emphasis on youth and young adults about workplace safety and employee rights. The way the campaign is designed is fairly simple: to use advertising media such as TV and print to drive people to their two websites.

Shock Tactics

The following 5 TV spots were aired on Canadian TV last year and clearly make use of shock tactics to catch someone's attention. I don't know about you, but it definitly had an effect on me since I'm writing a post about it!

The strength of those clips is the fact they make some uses of emotional triggers on top of the shock component. Moreover, they did a great job presenting case studies and actors that their target market could relate to.

We've seen those shock tactics used quite often in the domain of public awareness in examples such as the UK's Departement of Health and Peta.

The main objective of such advertising is to catch one's attention and to stick with them for a long period of time.

However, there are a few down sides that have to be taken into consideration when using shock tactics:
  • Dissociation might be created by situations that do not seem realistic to the viewers.
  • The shock element may override the message behind it.
  • It can hurt the image of a company or NGO in the eyes of many who see the tactic as 'last' resort to get the message across.

Check some more of their campaign material there.


Daniel Oyston said...

Wow, that’s pretty confronting.

Not sure what it is like over there, but cigarette packets now must carry a disgusting picture of some smoking related ailment. They now carry a health warning but also things like dead feet, a clogged artery, rotten teeth etc. I still see people buying them and not even giving it a second look – it is the old “won’t happen to me” syndrome.

In Australia they have recently changed angles and a campaign aimed at young speeding drivers targets their manhood. Check it out here

I wonder if the same would work for smokers? I always wonder if those that smoke have any idea that the rest of the population and repulsed by how they stink, how their breath smells and the complete disregard they have for anyone around them. But I am guessing not because they puff away!

Morgan Coudray said...

It the same here, and those shock tactics do work on the younger audience experimenting with cigarette.

And you know what , Daniel, when i smoked, I had NO idea how much people used to looked down on you for it... for the simple fact that all smokers lie to themselves about the nature of their habit. That's why so much money is wasted trying to make them quit because smoking is a complex psychological addiction.

Thanks for pointing me out to some creative Australian content. That is definitely a good strategy but I doubt that attacking one's manhood would dissuade smokers from smoking.

Daniel Oyston said...

Yeah I think you are right on the manhood front and smoking - I was more making that point that positioning smokers as "social outcasts" so to speak - like a speeding driver - might work? I have often pondered it because not much else works.

So you were a smoker hey? I never got it. I mean I tried it ... but I always felt sick. I could ever understand how people got past the sick stage to the enjoyment stage.

Daniel Oyston said...

PS - I enjoy an occasional cigar :)

Morgan Coudray said...

100%, the starting point of many smokers is the feeling of belonging that they get... if this feeling can effectively be alleviated then it would be game over for many cigarette companies.
Thanks for your comments daniel.

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