Claudia Jonge

Graduate Student,

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The use of shock advertising by social marketers is an effective strategy to change behavior. Or has it contrary/counter effects?

For my graduation assignment I will research the topic of shock advertising in the Western European non profit sector. The use of shock advertising in social marketing raises besides ethical questions another: Have shocking and fear appealing advertising strategies in the non-profit sector the intended effects?

In this paper I want to research the effectiveness of shock and fear appealing advertisements used in the Western European non-profit sector. Another point I want to research is what methods and strategies can lead to optimum results and can improve the likelihood of changing behaviors without leading to anxiety or resistance. Furthermore, examining the effectiveness of the methods, one which focus on the physical elements of fear and one that focus on the social elements of fear in the advertisements.

With creating a debate about this specific subject I want to reach a number of objectives besides input for my research:
1. Receive notice of the different approaches
2. Seeking for truth with the exchange of information
3. Finding the relevance of the topic
4. Creating a meaningful opinion and create recommendations

Please leave your comments, suggestions and ideas about this topic and lets enjoy this debate.

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    Mar 11 2013: 1. Could you clarify exactly what you mean by "which approaches"?
    2. Are you looking for facts and sincere participation?
    3. What can we do to remain rel event and cogent to your topic?
    4. Can you elaborate meaningful in context and can we recommend things by asking a question?

    Your conversation topic is very cool ;-)
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      Mar 11 2013: Thank you for your comment!

      At the moment I am working on the research questions. For the moment I have phrased two questions:
      Advisory Question
      What type of fear appeals in advertising is effective to reach the intended results on young adults?
      Research Question
      What type of fear appeals in advertising, emotional or physical, generates an amount of fear which can change attitude and behavior?
      Still subject to change though 

      With this debate I try to find meaningful reactions and opinions on this topic. Such as the ethicality of fear appeals, experiences and ideas to research. Preferably with theoretical argumentation.
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        Mar 11 2013: Is there a way to be more cogent to the questions?
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          Mar 12 2013: I will explore the questions to seek for the truth
  • Feb 24 2013: Keep it simple...

    Why do you prefer your favourite meal? Because you are shocked and feared when you eat it? Why do you change your favourite meal, because another meal shocks and frightens you more, or because you enjoy it more, because it tastes much better than anything you had before?

    In my city we had these clowns from attac, who wanted to start a protest against the large bank institutions-what is a so far right and a good thing. But, they gave a poor image. The opened their "base" in front of a very luxury bank house, but their base looked like a meeting point for homeless people.

    So, we all just got one life. And which party do you want to join, when you have the choice? The bank party, with their beautyful buildings, or the bunch of weirdos with their dirty tents? And if you have no money, you still like to watch the bank building way more than the tents of the attac guys.

    If you want a better world, then make it a better world. You do not fight poverty when offering poverty for everyone. You do not fight overweight by gloryfying starving and/or tasteless organic menues. And so on...

    Do you still fear there is a monster under your bed? No, because you get used to fear. But maybe you still look out for a prince riding on a horse who marries you (kind of)? If you have not found him yet you will do, because nobody gets used to good emotions, or the expectation of good. This always works and let us change things. Fear just hides us from changes, as we all slept worse until the day came we did not fear a monster is under our bed anymore.
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    Feb 17 2013: I don't think shock advertising has any lasting effect on behaviour change. It may work at first, but then bad habits start to kick in again, once the initial shock has worn off and has been forgotten.

    Is aversion better than persuasion in advertising? I don't think it is.

    Take smoking as an example:

    If I was a smoker, the sight of a pair of lungs gunked up with tar in an advertising campaign would fill me with revulsion - but only temporarily, even if that image was printed on every cigarette packet I buy thereafter. That initial shock would make me give up smoking for a few days at best. Any further advertising in a similar vein would then only be ignored.

    What would have a lasting effect and make me give up smoking for good? My opinion is that if advertising is to work, it would need to persuade my heart, rather than my head, to give it up. Because of that, I don't see how it could be done, short of tailoring the campaign to a small sector of like minded individuals and peer groups.

    What I'm really saying is that advertising as a strategy to change behaviour may only be superficially effective in persuading the masses that there may be something a little unhealthy about smoking - it's the nanny state nagging at us yet again.

    The real persuader is the heartfelt decision taken autonomously by the smoker him/herself that actually, it's a potential killer. No amount of advertising, no matter how shocking, can hasten that very personal decision.
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        Feb 20 2013: Commercial advertising obviously exists to persuade us to part company with hard-earned income to buy products and services. At least there is a certain honesty in that, but is the raison d'etre of public service advertising entirely honest? Do government departments and non-profit organisations really have our best interests, health and safety at heart? Why spend so much money on shocking us into doing things - or to stop doing things?

        It seems that commercial advertising exists to persuade, while the majority of public service advertising seems to want to dissuade, as you correctly point out, often by the use of shock. Why use dissuasive messages to produce model citizens, rather than persuasive ones?

        I think psychologically we are hard-wired to react to shock momentarily - but decisively - in order to push us out of harm's way. That state doesn't last long and soon decays into apathy if that stimulus keeps on and on repeating itself ad nauseam, the more we realise that the shock is actually doing us no harm. If that thought is applied to advertising, then its effect in dissuasion will also be temporary and apathetic.

        All the campaigns you mention in your list, seems to me to fall into the 'dissuasive' category.

        For such advertising to have any chance of working, I think the initial shock needs to be followed up quickly by a persuasive, positive campaign in order to 'pull' us into something desirable and enduring.

        In summary, I'd rather be pulled than pushed!
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      Mar 11 2013: Well what is more effective? Physical fear appeals or emotional fear appeals?
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        Mar 11 2013: It depends i think the two physical and emotional impacts the`persons
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    Feb 15 2013: Claudia, First, I cannot believe that this ad cost the British Health 2.7 million pounds. It targets smoking but no specific demographic. The words below states that many do not believe that smoking is bad for you and continue smoking. How much is the Health Org advertising budget ... what percent of budget.

    Step by step:

    1) What is the purpose of ads for the British Health? All public health agencies are based on wellness.
    I just read a article that said the #1 cost in EU medicine is mental health. So why elect an ad on smoking with no demographics.

    2) What is being done with schools and kids ... that will greatly influence the wellness concept. The older people are the less they are apt to change.

    3) What are the stats ... college VS high school VS non grads ... loook at the ads FOR cigrettees and see what the target population is. That is the demographic the health org should be looking at.

    4) Impact: What were total sales prior to the ad ... what are current sales.

    5) Break down each of the major expenses of the Health org costs ... related to smoking .. mental health ,,, cancer .. drinking related ... etc ... How many ads for each? Effectivness? Number of shock - non-shock?

    6) You get the idea ......

    Perhaps your paper is to broad .. maybe not.

    How about if you narrowed it down to a area where the Health Org supplied you with data that you could quantify to validate your findings. What are other countries doing? Effectivness? Do they use shock?

    So the new paper may deal with the effrectivness of ads in the non-profit sector and their impact. In this light you could use shock as one media .. pamphlets .. newspaper ... TV ... focusing on different demographics.

    I wish you well. Please share your decisions .. grade ... and teachers comments with TED friends. Bob.
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      Mar 11 2013: Well I have made my mind up about the examples which I will use. Examples of fear appealing advertisements which I use in this paper are two types of fear appeals. One type is emotional fear appeals and the other type is physical fear appeals. The examples are from previous campaigns commissioned by different health departments from the United Kingdom, USA and Australia. The issues covered are, binge drinking, STI testing, drug abuse and anti-smoking.
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    Lejan .

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    Feb 15 2013: In my opinion, anxiety is the ONLY reaction 'social marketers' (whoever those are) are aiming at.

    In modern 24/7/365 media terror societies, in which we became unable of NOT being subjected to any form of advertising, commercials, brand-names, logos, jingles and beauty models by our sensory organs, how do those 'social marketers' get to 'ring' another bell of ours? And here even a bell of 'our' personal 'importance' in their and their advertising customers eyes?

    How do they penetrate our 'horny media skin' by their, but yet another message? How do they catch our eyes which have seen all of the bright side of sweet promises - every day since birth? Glamor, Beauty, Youth, Happiness, Friends, etc.?

    Anxiety is a powerful emotion and compared to knowledge, way more likely to induce a behavioral change within us.

    For instance, in 2013, in the western world, there is no active smoker anymore who doesn't know about the risks he/she is taking. So, if not anxiety, what do you think the UK health department is trying to generate in your given example? Just a 'visualization' of this knowledge for a 'better' understanding?

    Humans are world-champions in suppressing better knowledge. This is part of our nature, part of our optimism and a necessity for our lives not to 'freeze in anxiety' facing all the risks surrounding us every day.

    To place a 'message' behind those lines of personal defense, one got to be drastic, shocking, unexpected for it to sink in, again and it is necessary to bypass the filter of our 'ratio' and to sting right into our instincts, of which fear is one of the strongest, if not THE strongest.

    Shock advertising has to get very personal and this is why it is even more suspicious to me than the 'regular' ones. WHO is going to place ITS message within ME and WHY? Is the UK health department only interested in the 'health' of smoking people, or is it a 'cost saving program' to health-care? What about car driving then? Shouldn't we get to SEE it too?
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    Feb 15 2013: 0.0 This looks like to me aversion therapy used in a business context and its one of the approach adopted to deal with addiction issues.I think effects varies as people are quite different in response to these ads.And usually there's a huge gap from being aware to behavior changes because of complexity. But i am sure there are people who benefits from it.and just curious about how you define effctiveness in this case and how you measure it.
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    Mar 11 2013: Claudia, I know a lot of thought went into what you could best support. I am glad it worked out for you.

    It would be interesting to hear what you have learned from this study and what the results of your published studies are.

    Just a suggestion .... write down your personal thoughts prior to conducting research and publishing. When all is done go back and see what differences this has make from your original thoughts.

    Let us know how you do. All the best. Bob.
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    Mar 11 2013: Well Ideas is my strong point , I think like you but strong narrow guided to be more emotional it s what rules the world n final point
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    Mar 11 2013: Well Ideas is my strong point , I think like you but strong narrow guided to be more emotional it s what rules the world n final point
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    Mar 11 2013: NOT ONLY IN United Kingdom, USA and Australia HERE IN PERU
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    Mar 4 2013: Sadly there are more dumb people every day so, it is effective...
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      Mar 11 2013: Thank you for your comment but this is not grounded. Is there any proof that a certain type of people are more manipulative?
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        Mar 12 2013: Just think USA banks giving mortgages to people who didn't knew what they were getting into...
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    Feb 25 2013: Road safety?

    Shoot a tv commercial where two guys are walking across a pedestrian crossing then jump shot to where a car filled with pimple-less attractive skinny, hipped out kids carousing and taking vids and shooting pixs of each other as well as singing until the driver and passenger decide to take a pix of themselves and then they run over the two guys. The car screams to a tree and folds up. Now shoot the commercial all on smartphones from many different angles make sure the car is a modern vehicle to show what a high speed impact looks like. Cgi a figure smashing through the windscreen.
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      Mar 11 2013: This actually happen in some road safety advertisments, but do you think it is effective?
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        Mar 11 2013: Yes and after a while the shock wears off but the add is not about phones but aimed at how modern cars generally don't let you walk away from a crash. What advertisers should show is the blanket that covers a car when there has been a fatality, the blanket is the shocker.
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    Feb 16 2013: First, thank you all for your comments. I will certainly use it for my graduation assignment.

    I am still in the orientation phase of the research and try to find the right angel.To clarify the problem a correct determination of the terminology is needed. (Barnes, J.H. Jr and Dotson, M.J., 1990) discussed offensive advertising and identified two different dimensions: offensive execution and offensive products. In the execution you can relate to more specific issues like delicacy, decency, fear, morality, racism and sexism. In this research the focus is on the issue of fear. Because previous research has suggested that strong fear appeal has a strong relation with persuasiveness and behavioral change.

    The theoretical framework I want to use is: Protection motivation theory (PMT) together with Fear Appeal theory. With the Protection Motivation Theory (Rogers, Cognitive and physiological processes in fear appeals and attitude change: A revised theory of protection motivation, 1983) I want to investigate how social marketers working for non-profit organizations can use fear appeal in their advertising strategies effectively in Western Europe campaigns. Based on this theoretical framework I will do the research, the research will be a small scale sample survey conducted by a juvenile test group. They will be exposed to fear appealing advertisements. I want to investigate if there are differences in physical fear appeal and social fear appeal in social marketing advertisements. Also we want to research the likelihood of behavioral change after being exposed to fear appealing advertising and the likelihood of attitudinal change after being exposed to fear appealing advertising. With the results a recommendation for social marketers in the Western European non-profit sector can be made.
  • Feb 15 2013: Will it not do so?
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      Feb 15 2013: For example the recently launched health campaign of the UK health department: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20805059
      • Feb 22 2013: Hi Claudia,
        How are you?

        Have you considered a specific target audience ? Gender,background, education and various other facets of life experiences contribute to how certain groups/indivduals might respond to your research and implementation. For example, males may respond to visual stimuli, where females might respond more to an actual application of such behaviorial change/consequence in their daily lives. Also, delineating a specific audience would yield a more real world potential change. Bon chance !
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          Feb 25 2013: Hey Joe,

          Thank you for your comment.

          The targetgroup: Young adults, under/graduates/West European

          Most research has been done in this group because juvenile people tend to change (bad) behavior more likely.