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Shock Advertising

by Alla Babin, Bizi Marketing Solutions

In the modern world the audience is daily bombarded by hundreds and thousands of advertisements and commercials. That's why one of the main objectives of any advertisement is to excel and stick out. Sexual subjects serve this purpose the best. Sexual instinct is one of the most powerful instincts and cedes only to the instinct of self-preservation. Our nervous system is built in such a way that any signal associated with sex immediately evokes orientation response. One's attention immediately focuses on the source of this signal and this reaction is rarely conscious. That's why sexual images is the most effective means to attract one's attention to an advertisement. It's believed that this makes the advertisement, and consequently, the brand more memorable.


Gucci generated an advert showing the letter G shaved into a woman's pubic hair. Shocking, isn't it? Memorable, as well... that's what they wanted to achieve. Calvin Klein, United Colours of Benetton, Gucci... all are respected and well known and established brands.

9 All of them spend fortunes on advertising and market research...
All of them use Shock Advertising policy
All of them use risque images as the best "shock therapy" tool.

What can be more shocking than kissing nun and monk?

You may say that clothes are often supposed to be sexy.
How about coffee?

Lavazza uses the same technique to shock and attract attention to their products. (Lavazza is an Italian coffee company who uses stimulating images across their entire advertising model. Note use at their web site.)

And doesn't matter that these adverts may cause a grandiose scandal. Even better. Then it's more likely to be remembered.




Use of hints

Another advertising trick opposite to the shock advertising is hinting. Sometimes it's better not to talk openly about sex. Sometimes an advert should have some mystery in it, should be a bit funny and intriguing and sexual motives may be just a nice addition to the commercial message.

In this case the buyers can use their imagination and "finish" the story of the advertising image by themselves. Thus, the buyers acquire the role of active participants of the advertising process. People that act as active participants of the advertising process are more likely to change their views in favour of the views recommended by the scenario of the advertisement: "Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand."

The most effective is not an advert that suggests pre-formed schemas and images, but the one that evokes thinking processes of the purchasers and allows them to understand and comprehend the meaning of an advertisement message on their own.

Various kinds of erotic hints and sometimes humour are very popular today in the advertising industry. This is not only an effective tool of advertising. It also allows using the attractive nature of sexual advertising message without the use of shocking vulgar images that may easily offend some part of the targeted audience and potential buyers. On the other hand it helps to involve potential buyers into active thinking process. Mental involvement in combination with nice looking not vulgar eroticism of the advertising images help to achieve the advertisers goal: attract attention, involve, make the advert memorable, promote the brand, enhance sales.

Gender differences

Psychologists say that men and women approach sex differently. This is determined by biological and psychological differences between the sexes which are much deeper than artificially acquired cultural and sociological influences. As a result, advertisements designed for male and female audiences are very different.

12 With men everything is simple. It is assumed that men are naturally polygamous. As a result, for men any young good looking woman becomes an object of sexual attraction. Therefore, the advert should: (1) attract man's attention with a sexy female body; (2) create strong association: if you purchase the advertised product you will attract (have) a beautiful woman, maybe even few beautiful women. The advertising message is as follows: a woman will always prefer a man who possesses the advertised product.

This approach became so popular in modern advertising industry that eau de colognes, cars, chewing gums, cigarettes, various beverages and other products are almost considered to be sex-stimulants (which is, of course, ridiculous). Chew this chewing gum and you will immediately become the object of desire of at least dozen of young attractive girls. Just smell this coffee and you'll have the best sexual adventure of your life. Choose those shoes and all the women will be at your feet.

Sometimes, to attract more representative male audience, the theme of sex is presented as part of an "elite" life style associated with the advertised product. This kind of advertising is appropriate for cars, expensive alcoholic beverages, houses, golf clubs, etc.

The approach to women oriented advertising is more complicated. It is considered that for women physical attractiveness of men is an important though not ultimately defining attribute of his sexual attractiveness (for the exception of really young teen age girls). Women are more pragmatic and any potential partner is evaluated by them on the basis of his social and biological characteristics. The process is often subconscious: is it possible to have healthy kids with him? Will he be able to satisfy her needs? Will he constantly take care of his wife and children? In our modern society average women are looking for the features of "social success" with the set of typical characteristics ascribed to this "social success": self-confidence, delicacy, tenderness and sensitivity to the female needs, financial stability, high social status... and, of course, physical attractiveness -- as a nice adding value feature. This kind of advertising demonstrates that the purchased product will attract to women this very type of men -- successful, rich and sensitive. And, of course, stereotypic tools and images are used to demonstrate it: yachts, expensive cars, stylish watches, etc.

And, of course, the decision will be in women's hands. All the men will go after her, will desire her and long for her... (if she purchases the advertised product). Along with that sex is almost never used in female oriented adverts. Male body in this kind of adverts is not sexual, but romantic and aesthetic.

Yeah, today's advertisement industry targets average typical female slobs. Not that it's very different from the macho targets of male oriented advertising.

Is this advertising effective?

Yes, marketing researches show that the majority of audience would pay more attention to the adverts that contain some kind of sexual element. However, what happens after that? According to the researches males usually enjoy the pictures but do not really read the text of the advert and using their selective hearing technique do not listen to the commentary (if it's a TV ad). Women, on the other hand, usually read the text. This means that in most cases this advertising is "consumed" by the wrong target audience. Funny enough, but the same happens with the adverts that use images of attractive men. They are usually read by men, while women just look at the pictures.

Moreover, American studies showed that although people remember "sexual" advertisements they don't remember or remember much worse the actual advertising message and can rarely recollect what product, company or brand were advertised. In the other words, consumers, i.e. -- potential buyers remember the advertisement itself but have absolutely no idea and no recollection of the advertised products, services or brands.


©2008 : Published by Alla Babin, Bizi Marketing Solutions



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