A study published in the Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences by Wits student Brandon Urwin and lecturer Marike Venter has found that shock-tactic advertisements put consumers off a brand rather than attract them, and are quickly forgotten.
Urwin said one of the main insights they gained was that consumers frequently don’t even absorb the name of the brand in such ads and often only remember the images.
“The whole point of the ads is to get the consumer’s reaction,” he says, but there’s always a danger of causing offense by pushing boundaries too far. Gender made no difference to the reactions.
“Marketers must be made aware that levels of shock and norm violation both contribute towards the ineffectiveness of this type of advertising. Type of shock generally, appears to make no difference in terms of the outcome, as five types were tested, and in terms of the variables, had similar outcomes.
“Memory recall does not have an effect, as it makes no difference whether an advertisement is remembered or not, it does not contribute or detract from the ineffectiveness of the advertisement.
“Marketers need to be made aware of this as shock advertising may no longer be living up to its name. If indeed shock advertising can be seen as ineffective, then firms may need to look for new areas of advertising that are able to break through the myriad of current advertising to make a positive connection with consumers,” the study reads.
A recent study carried out at Ohio University found that ads with sexual and violent content are also ineffective.
Brad Bushman, psychology and mass communication professor at Ohio State University, said they had found almost no evidence that violent and sexual messages increased advertising effectiveness, The Daily Mail, reported.
“In general, we found violent and sexual programmes, and ads with violent or sexual content, decreased advertising effectiveness. Sex and violence do not sell, and in fact they may even backfire by impairing memory, attitudes and buying intentions for advertised products.
“Thus, advertisers should think twice about sponsoring violent and sexual programs, and about using violent and sexual themes in their ads,” Bushman said.
Professor Robert Lull, who was part of the research team, said that while people might be attracted to sex, sexual content in ads has a negative impact on brands.