Finally, I will provide a case study from the Barnardo's children's rights charity which recently stirred significant controversy because of its use of disturbing images of children to highlight the issue of poverty in the UK.
As a result of the research and analysis involved with this project, I can directly state that shock advertising is effective because it gets noticed. Barnardo's use of graphic images of a newborn infant with a cockroach coming out of its mouth, though dramatically controversial and visually repugnant, is nevertheless an effective tool for provoking a response to the pressing issue of poverty. The people who see this ad will not forget it.
As discussed in the literature review section of this report, there is some contention about the social responsibility and methodology of organizations that engage in shock advertising. Those ethical concerns notwithstanding, the reason that many advertisers are using the technique is because it can be extremely effective if done properly. There are a significant number of concepts, angles and strategies related to the presentation of this form of advertising, four of which will be considered here.
Humor. Humor. From the beginning of mass media advertising, humor has been known to be a key component of moving the marketplace toward a particular product. Shock advertisers simply take this concept to a new level by elevating one or two aspects of a situation to ridiculous proportions; and the result can be very sophisticated or very base. For example, consider the highly-competitive credit card market in the US. One of the high- profile advertisers is Capital One, a "diversified financial services company offering a broad array of credit, savings and loan products" to many nations (Capital One, 2006, p. 1). In their "What's in Your Wallet" campaign, they use humor to convey their message of product superiority in interest rate charges or reward points. In one of the latest ads, touting the benefits of the organization's reward points, a family of four is shown bundled up in their coats, gloves, and hats, riding a ski lift to the top of the mountain. The father makes a comment about the inconvenience of his credit card company's policy towards the use of reward points, and the family proceeds to exit the ski lift onto a summer landscape at the top of a rugged mountain. As the father and mother attempt to ski down the snow-less slope, they crash with significant violence. The teenage son turns to the camera and asks the key question. The message is clear: Capital One will allow its customers to use their reward points when it is convenient for them and not block out the dates that would be the most popular. The commercial is funny and memorable because of the shock value; skiing on dirt. The humorous connotation helps potential customers remember the product, and the company's campaign slogan becomes a cultural image. This is one of the most effective uses of humor in shock advertising.
Juxtaposition. Another effective tool used by shock advertisers is the union of two disparate concepts to create a memorable conflict. The two