Shockvertising – provocation or right matter?

Advertising is an inseparable part of marketing. However, is it right to use aggression, shock and manipulation to win a battle for clients? Or maybe this question is unfounded and  advertising rules its own laws? When some claim that contemporary advertising  trivialise an evil, others believe that shock can bring visible and positive effect on our behaviour.

Every day we are flooded by hundreds of ads and most of them don’t differ from each other. Copywriters should be really imaginative to create something extraordinary. Competitive ads’ market needs to create  a message which will attract our attention.

Shockvertising – is a type of advertising based on shock,  eye-catching graphics, unwonted slogans or pictures. Its main aim is to capture our attention, create buzz and raise people’s awareness to important issues e.g. health care and problems, smoking, violence.

Some examples of shockvertising

1. United Colors of Benetton

Number one is reserved for Oliviero Toscani – famous Italian photographer  whose projects were used in promotion of Benetton’s company (United colors of Benetton). Toscani isn’t afraid of scandal or shock in his masterpieces: one of them shows a kiss between priest and a nun. He also created a social campaign against anorexia. A lot of his photographs caused uproar but we need to say that they successfully draw  attention and emphasise important social problems e.g: racism, hunger.


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2. Carl’s Junior Burger

Shockvertising is not always based on shock or aggression but e.g on sex. Below you can watch a “burger commercial” – it is confusing because we watch a half naked celebrity Paris Hilton, washing car and touching her body with desire. So where is the main star of this commercial – the burger? I don’t see anything wrong in using some sex message but only when it relates to the product. Here, I can’t see link between the burger and Paris Hilton. Or, wait.. Of course, the burger is as spicy as Paris in this video.


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3. Calvin Klein

Calvin Klein is also known for using shock in his adverts. Mostly, he pictured young models lying on each other in sexual poses and exhibiting their bodies. Can we talk about crossing the line in his messages? They are based on sex, desire, mystery and to my mind show real personality and image of the brand.  However, some of them were banned.


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Once again, designer Calvin Klein is mired in controversy for his provocative ads. His latest ad for Calvin Klein jeans has been banned in Australia after the continent’s Advertising Standards Bureau ruled that it was ‘suggestive of violence and rape’.

Lara Stone, the gap-toothed face of the brand is seen lying on her back on the lap of one shirtless male model who is holding her hair. Another shirtless model is hovering above her, his hand beneath he

Polish shockvertising

1.Cropp Town – „Szyjemy inaczej”

This commercial is based on sexual subtexts

2.Heyah – still remains very controversial. This commercial was banned. Accusation: dangerous to children’s mental development

3. House

Provocation in HOUSE campaign “Virginity”. Brand dedicates her clothes for girl between 19-25 years old. Some of billboards showed a girl in sexual pose when others represented her praying with slogan” Guard me father”. They were banned. Accusation: offend religious feelings.Obrazek


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Shockvertising in social campaigns

Shock in advertising is usually perceived as something unusual but it has also positive aspects. We can observe it in social campaigns. Typical posters, commercials don’t appeal to people. Researchs conducted in the University of Stirling and the Open University showed that ads which are based on fear are far more effective than customary messages.  But there is one condition – they should also offer support or advice how to solve the problem.

Anti-smoking campaign in Australia

Idea was based on showing disgusting photos of smokers’ organs.


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Drive safe in helmet

Another example of social campaign was realized by Asia Injury Prevention Foundation. They pointed out that 97% of Vietnameses motorcyclists don’t wear helmets during riding. Explainations were frivolous e.g. helmet destroys my haircut. Campaign was based on black and white photos of motorcyclists after head injury. The effect was visibly successful: the number of people wearing helmets rised from 3 to 10%. In 2007, the Vietnamese government established an obligation- wear helmet while riding.


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