While conducting research and gathering information for a university project, a colleague and myself became particularly interested in what has become commonly known as "shockvertising": advertisements with provocative content.
"Shockvertising" has been frequently adopted and discussed in recent years. However its effect on the audience has yet to be proven due to the double-sided nature of the phenomenon. Shockvertising works by attracting the attention of the audience. At the same time, it plays on highly emotive elements which in normal life might be considered negative. Embarrassment, fear, sadness and disgust are just some of the emotions often roused by shockvertising.
But can a line be drawn between compelling advertisements that may persuade the customer to purchase the product or service - and the crass, distasteful kind of advertisements that we have become only too familiar with? Even more perplexing, why should the negative emotions generated by these campaigns influence us to buy a product, use a service or donate to a cause? Is increased globalization and the modernization of the world numbing our empathy? Or has the audience become so blasé that advertisers need to “wake” their emotions again?
Furthermore, we could ask ourselves whether the emotions stirred by Shockvertising are really necessary, or even desired by the consumer. They may be just a way for brands and organizations to get free publicity.
We have selected the examples due to their nature and the controversy they caused: the United Colors of Benetton "Unhate" campaign, Virgin Mobile's “Hook up fearlessly”, and an antismoking campaign. They rely on different shock appeals – sex , taboos, ethical issues, pain and disease.
We know that this site gathers individuals who are passionate about advertising. So we invite you to contemplate the work shown here and think about the kind of emotions it arouses in you.