Shock Advertisements: A Discursive Topic in Society

Firstly, when discussing the potential for shock advertisement to become a discursive topic in society, the continued reference to anti drink driving awareness campaigns shows that in Ireland fear appeal advertisements are typically associated with shock advertisements. The consensus among the respondents was that they recognised that shock advertisements have been confined to fear appeals in Ireland.

‘I suppose social causes and anti drink driving campaigns. They would be the most high profile ones especially in Ireland in recent years once they started that trend they came out with a stream of shock and awe ads.’

in many ways Ireland is still a ‘traditionally’ run society where religion is still a cornerstone of the country’s societal norms and values. This they feel still plays a major influence on societal discussion of taboo subject matters that shock advertisement can often cover. Furthermore this also still plays a role in how sexually themed shock advertisements are perceived by the majority.

‘Here in Ireland pubs still close on a Good Friday and it’s the 21st Century and we are still rooted in religion. Even sex is still a bit of a taboo subject here and you can’t talk about it and you can’t be talking about that!’

This introduces the cultural and demographic issues that play a part in what sector will employ shock tactics and how it will be perceived. In addition to this, the respondents comments suggest that consumer empowerment and greater levels of cynicism means that if a shock advertisement carried out by a product/service company is taken up wrong, a severe backlash coming in the form of public outcry can ensue.

Respondent E offers an evolution of thought on this issue: ‘I think that word of mouth is definitely vital and is spreads the campaigns quick but you know some of these ads are going out purposefully; I mean that is the edge. They know a certain amount of complaints are going to come in and complaints and make a topic and therefore spreads it quicker.’

Thus a public’s reaction to an advertisement is a reflection of the social and cultural fabric of that environment. Thus cultural dimensions do form a vital part of managing the advertising communications model, particularly for shock advertisements.


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