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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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    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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