This advertisement by the Meth Project Foundation uses shocking content and graphic imagery to persuade viewers not to take methylamphetamines. The image used is a woman with so-called ‘meth mouth’, a common condition for addicts of this drug characterised by severe tooth decay and loss. Shock advertising is designed to capture the attention and bring awareness to certain causes, often causing controversy for using images which are unpleasant or distressing to look at.
Dahl et al (2003) compared HIV/AIDS prevention advertisements using three different types of appeal (information, fear and shock) and found that the advertisement that implemented the shock tactic outperformed the fear and information-type advertisements on measures of attention, recall and recognition. Furthermore, when left alone with different types of pamphlets and information, approximately 50% of participants in the shock condition picked up an AIDS-related item compared to 20% of participants in the information and control conditions. The researchers concluded that shock is an effective communication strategy.
Dahl, D.W., Frankenberger, K.D., & Manchanda, R. V. (2003). Does It Pay to Shock? Reactions to Shocking and Nonshocking Advertising Content among University Students. Journal of Advertising Research,43,268-280.