Experiential Shockvertising

The aspirationally savvy amongst us will think we’re accustomed to ‘shockvertising’. We’ll say we’ve seen it all before and nothing can really shock us anymore. You may think again after you see Leo Burnett London’s recent ‘Pub Loo Shocker’ stunt for the Department for Transport’s THINK! Campaign.

The idea behind ‘shockvertising’ is clearly to provoke a strong reaction in the viewer and immediately make the ad stand out from the perennial haze.

The idea behind ‘shockvertising’ is clearly to provoke a strong reaction in the viewer and immediately make the ad stand out from the perennial haze. Benetton has used it most famously over the years, often using racial or LGBT themes in their ads, and thus tapping into the viewer’s inherent uneasiness on such subjects. In late 2011 it was forced to discontinue this ad showing Pope Benedict XVI kissing a senior Egyptian imam after the Vatican launched a strong protest.

In UK we’re more used to seeing public service ‘shockverts’, highlighting health and safety concerns. Anyone of my boss’s generation will remember the harrowing fate of poor Jimmy when he tried to retrieve his frisbee,

and cigarettes dripping with fat is a more recent addition to the genre that sticks in the memory and is sure to make you hesitate before buying a ten pack of Marlborough Reds as a smoky accompaniment to a night out.

Road safety ads are another area that often use shock tactics to emphasize their point, pulling no punches in the use of gore and ‘jump scares’ to show the consequences of driving drunk, tired, carelessly or without a seatbelt. This stunt by Leo Burnett London uniquely takes the existing concept from numerous ads and places it in an experiential format. As a person who is prone to jumping at the unexpected slam of a door, I think it is a particularly powerful idea and if I had been one of these poor guys, I think I would have reacted with even less composure!

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