Shock advertising or “shockvertising” is the use of frightening, offensive, taboo, or emotion-provoking words, images, or concepts to sell a product or an idea. It sometimes works, but sometimes it elicits such negative reactions that the reader or viewer avoids the product—and sometimes both the product and its maker—entirely.
Clothing giant Benetton is one example of a company that has embraced shockvertising by using institutions and subjects that advertisers normally avoid: churches (a priest and a nun kissing), sex (a black stallion mounting a white mare), and prisons (interviews about an inmate’s thoughts as he faces death). Its campaigns have reaped public criticism, but at the same time they have made its products more popular by generating enough curiosity and interest.
But are the more demure Filipinos ready for shockvertising? “Yes they are,” says Jos Ortega, chairman and chief executive of BrandLab Inc., a branding strategy company. “On the contrary, it is us campaign developers and the approving parties [advertisers] who are not yet ready.”
The key to shockvertising is mixing shock with humor “to get away with it.” Baygon’s “Mating” ad, created by BBDO Guererro Ortega, shows two cockroaches having sex with the suggestive song Afternoon Delight playing in the background. Toward the end of the ad, the message “Time for Some Birth Control” appears on the screen, so although the ad focuses on some insects’ sexual activities, the humorous message at the end overturns the initial shock and pushes the product’s real message: wiping out cockroaches.