I saw this post on Extremely Shocking Advertisements and thought it might be interesting to comment on, especially in the wake of last week's anti-abortion billboard controversy. It seems that most shocking advertisements rally around social issues—after all, it's pretty difficult to get riled up about soup. (Though I, however, seem to be able to do it about tea.) If you go to that first link, you can see all 40, and to the article's credit, they are pretty shocking. But is that it?
I feel like we need to have a discussion about good shocking vs. bad shocking. I think "good shocking" would be an advertisement that wakes you up, makes you think about the topic in a different way. "Bad shocking" is distasteful enough that it's off-putting and all you feel is repelled. The anti-abortion billboard did that for me because it was entirely racist. I'm not against having an abortion discussion, however, racism isn't the way to go, especially not during Black History Month.
Here are the ads from that article I did like:
Nothing beats a little kid in a tiger suit, especially when there's a gun being pointed at her. Oh wait!
What I like about this is that you immediately have the response the WWF wants you to have: connection with the cute girl in the tiger suit, then fear about the gun being pointed at her. Since the point is to get you to connect with and feel a stronger emotional connection to the animals on the other side of that gun, this is an effective ad.
Another cute one from the WWF. Taking familiar icons—the save or don't save buttons, it reminds you that you have a choice to save the very photogenic, angelic orangutan in the image. Not offensive, or shocking really even, but it does punch home the idea that it's up to you.
This one gutted me. It's really difficult to see a woman who is a victim of domestic violence, but it's even harder to see one who's older. Perhaps it's because older people are meant to hold a more privileged, sacred place in our community, or because they seem more fragile to me. Further, I believe we all have this idea of "this doesn't happen here." We think that it's only addicts and those with anger management issues that perpetrate domestic abuse, but that's not true. This is a white, seemingly upper-class woman, who is also a victim, and that is truly shocking. Very effective.
This one just amused me. It's a guy in a fox suit! Tugging on a naked guy! At first I thought it was just another day in San Francisco, but no, it's an ad about animal rights. Looking at my entries here, I think animal rights might be a polarizing issue for me: it's so easy to do it well, and even easier to do it poorly. Domestic abuse, same thing.
Here are one's I didn't like:
Ew. I get the point: we don't want to do research on monkeys because we wouldn't want it done to us. Okay. Except that the picture is icky. Surgery is taking place in some kind of weird urban setting, rather than a lab, and let's not forget that humans are way more adept at surgery than a monkey would be. Also, I'm way more comfortable doing research on animals than I am killing them for their skins, so I may not be the target demographic for this, but I think that kind of ad would have gone further. We can make a viable argument for science, but we can't for poaching.
In a way this is effective. It's appropriately scary and the monster is repellent enough to the point where we react with "Oh, I wouldn't want that guy alone with my kids!" However, we don't experience people as monsters. It would have been far more effective to show the child, because we'd have a stronger protective response and maybe spend more time reading the ad. The message gets lost for me because I just want to get away from that guy.
Which did you respond to? Which made you uncomfortable? Do you think there's a good shocking vs. bad shocking?