When an individual starts a business or is running a business, it becomes necessary for him to let people know about it. Promoting is essential to let others know about the business. Either offline or online, any sort of business needs customers to enjoy a healthy business turnaround. However, advertisement is the only way to reach customers. That’s why for a company, advertisement is essential. A business will be able to operate in a competitive setting, only if it advertises its products or services.
But why Shock Advertisement? One of the biggest challenges for brands is to gain public interest. Shock advertisement, using controversies and shocking images, continues to be a promotional tool currently used. ‘You can say the right things about your product and nobody’s going to listen. You have got to say it in a manner, you feel in your gut.’
We live in a world of images, and we are exposed to thousands every day. The majority of it comes from advertisements, and it would be logical to say that most of them go unnoticed. But the ones, which stay, are the shocking ones. These shocking images intended to influence customers by creating controversies and thus make a campaign.
Is Shock Advertisements a current trend?
No, this form of advertisement peaked back in the ’80s and ’90s, thanks to the United Colors of Benetton brand for producing the first advertising campaigns that talked publicly about problems such as STD prevention, racism, and Gulf War. These advertisements put forward the cruel aspects of reality, rather than representing an idealized way. And later were followed by many organizations to portray common social issues. Initially, such disturbing images were deterred by the common public and many complaints were filed. But the primary objective of such advertisements was fulfilled i.e. attract attention. This paid way for other businesses to advertise their brand more effectively.
Elements of Shocking Advertisements
Shock advertisements by definition is an advertisement type that deliberately violates the general personal ideas or social norms to attract attention and influence its viewers to re-think about it. Content in these ads ranges from disgusting images to religious taboos which are discussed below.
- Disgusting Images – Images which gives a strong feeling of dislike and gives a strong feeling of unpleasantness. References to death and decay, blood, disease.
- Sexual References – Promoting or portraying nudity or partial nudity.
- Profanity – Commonly known as curse words or swearing or irrelevant behavior.
- Vulgarity – The state of being vulgar concerning disrespectful acts by humans such as farting, liking.
- Impropriety – Improper character or behavior which violates social convention such as inappropriate dress or manner.
- Moral Offensiveness – In general, offending others in a way that provokes violence such as victim exploitation or putting children in a very provocative situation.
- Religious Taboos – Inappropriate use of religious symbols or rituals to provoke a particular religious group such as advertising Beef burger in India.
According to Dahl, Frankenberger, and Manchanda (2003), the below 7 components of Shocking Advertisements form a base for various researches and helps to analyze positive or negative customer views on shock ads.
The concept of Shock Advertisement ranges from the primary objective of attracting an audience to the hidden agenda of creating awareness in society. Various researches have been conducted in the past to explore the effectiveness of Shock advertisement in social media and its effects on consumer buying behaviors.
Consumer buying behavior can be divided into positive and negative, based on their perspective on Shock Advertisements. According to Waller (2006), positive consumer behavior would encourage consumers to purchase the advertised brand and spread positive information about the brand. Whereas, negative consumer behavior would result in consumer’s resistance and negative publicity of the advertised brand. To understand the reasons for consumer buying behavior, according to Virvilaitė and Matulevičienė (2013), it becomes essential to evaluate various sociodemographic variables like age, gender, religiosity, and moral principles.
Influence on Age
Age plays a very crucial role in shaping consumer purchasing behavior and hence it becomes necessary to evaluate the influence of Shock advertisements on various age groups. According to Liu, Cheng, and Li (2009), younger consumer’s view on Shock Advertisement is more positive than older consumers. This was further confirmed by Prendergast and Hwa (2003), that younger consumer’s positive view on Shocking Advertisements will not impact their buying behavior of the advertised brand, whereas buying behavior of older consumers tend to switch to other brands and avoid any kind of association with the advertised brand. According to a survey by Worldometers, the median age in India is 27 years, which would motivate a marketer to focus these ads for younger consumers in India.
Influence on Gender
Shocking Advertisements have different influence on genders. Research conducted by Swani, Weinberger and Gulas (2013), points violation of social norms as a key factor behind the difference from a gender perspective. Female consumers view violent advertisements as a violation of social norms and hence develop a negative attitude towards the advertised brand. Whereas in the case of male consumers, their positive attitude towards Shock Advertisements is related to the perception of humor in humorous advertisements and greater violence. The difference in gender attitudes towards Shock Advertisement can be related to their biological differences as the majority of females being perceived as soft and emotional, whereas males being derived from such feelings generally. Marketers advertising such ads should focus their target audience before advertising their brand. Apart from biological difference for differences in gender perception about Shock Ads, according to Mahajan, Poddar, and J (2015) ads that depict gender-stereotypical also plays a great role in shaping consumer behavior and positive/negative view. Hence the choice of appeals and gender becomes very crucial in placing advertisements before customers.
Influence on Religiosity
Various studies have suggested that Religiosity plays a very vital role in shaping consumer behavior. Sabri (2012) investigated that more religious consumers tend not to acknowledge Shocking Advertisements and also advertised brand. This scenario is more profound in Muslim countries. Sabri’s (2012) research reveals that consumers in Morocco have feelings such as guilt, shame, and confusion when they view Shocking Advertisements. Such kinds of ads are viewed as a violation of their religious principals and associating with such advertised brands would be very inappropriate contrary to countries like France, where people are less religious and liberal. Sabri (2012) emphasizes that more religious people would develop a negative attitude towards Shock Advertisements, which would reflect in a negative impact on consumer buying behavior towards the advertised brand and vice versa. Such emotions can be related to personal, interpersonal and situational factors that are different in different countries. Thus, it brings in a challenge for brands to advertise their products keeping in mind the religiosity of a particular country. In a country like India, which comprises of multiple religions, brands should be even more clear with their prospective audience before advertising.
Influence on Moral Principals
Moral Principals play a key role in shaping consumers’ perception of Shock Advertisements. Individual morals are closely related to the morality levels in their country or culture. Sabri (2012) revealed that if the morality level in a particular country or culture is high, consumers will have a negative opinion of Shocking ads, which will have an adverse effect on their purchasing behavior. Not just the religiosity, but morals also impact the consumer’s positive or negative opinion of shocking ads, which constantly affects consumer buying behavior.
Need for the Study
With the rise of competition in the marketing world, business confronts difficulties from internal and external environment and to maximize their profits and create a brand name, use a variety of marketing strategies and gimmicks to attract existing and potential customers. To gain a competitive advantage, marketers need to focus their attention on product awareness. Product awareness is mostly dependent on the advertisement, be it emotional, humor or sexual.
This research tends to determine the effectiveness of Shocking Ads on purchasing behavior and which elements play a vital role in decision making and which elements play a lesser role. This will help market researchers, Companies, etc. to understand this relation, which in turn can help them focus and improve their brand by concentrating on the content of Shock Ads in the best possible way.
- Dahl, D. W., Frankenberger, K. D., & Manchanda, R. V. (2003). Does it pay to shock? Reactions to shocking and nonshocking advertising content among university students. Journal of Advertising Research, 43(3), 268–280.
- Waller, D. S. (2006). A Proposed Response Model for Controversial Advertising. Journal of Promotion Management, 11(2–3), 3–15.
- Virvilaitė, R., & Matulevičienė, M. (2013). THE IMPACT OF SHOCKING ADVERTISING TO CONSUMER BUYING BEHAVIOR. ECONOMICS AND MANAGEMENT, 18(1).
- Prendergast, G., & Hwa, H. C. (2003). An Asian perspective of offensive advertising on the web. International Journal of Advertising, 22(3), 393–411.
- Liu F., Cheng H., Li J. (2009). Consumer responses to sex appeal advertising: a cross-cultural study, International Marketing Review, Vol. 26, No. 4-5, pp. 501-520
- Mahajan, R., Poddar, A., & J, R. (2015). Effects of Sexual Advertising on Customer Buying Decisions. IOSR Journal of Business and ManagementVer. III, 17(7), 2319–7668.
- Sabri, O. (2012). Preliminary investigation of the communication effects of “taboo” themes in advertising. European Journal of Marketing, 46(1), 215–236.
- Sabri, O., & Obermiller, C. (2012). Consumer perception of taboo in ads. Journal of Business Research, 65(6), 869–873.
- Swani, K., Weinberger, M. G., & Gulas, C. S. (2013). The impact of violent humor on advertising success: A gender perspective. Journal of Advertising, 42(4), 308–319.