This advert by ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) in New Zealand uses the 9/11 disaster as a shocking message to try and encourage people to stop smoking by comparing the impact of 9/11 and smoking on human lives using imagery.
The advert uses a shocking image to show that smoking has a large impact on human lives. Previous research has shown that using shocking images is an effective advertising technique. Dahl, Frankenberger and Machanda (2003) demonstrated that participants paid more attention and had better recall of shocking posters. Furthermore, Witte and Allen (2000) conducted a meta-analysis of all fear appeal studies. They found that to present a more persuasive message you needed to use strong fear appeals rather than weak fear appeals. An additional finding was that the most effective way to change behaviour is to match strong fear appeals and high-efficacy messages. However, a defensive response would happen if strong fear appeals is matched with low-efficacy messages. Using fears to shock consumers may be an effective advertising technique in other adverts, but it is not effective in this situation. This advert attempts to use a shocking and fearful reality that smoking kills more than the 9/11 disaster to encourage people to stop smoking. This effect was not received well as it used a highly emotional event, in which the victims were not in control of their destiny; this is not something that people tend to associate with smoking. Many people felt that it was an insensitive piece of advertising and that it took away from the seriousness of the 9/11 event.
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(3), 268-280.
Witte, K., & Allen, M. (2000). A meta-analysis of fear appeals: Implications for effective public health campaigns. Health Education & Behavior, 27(5), 591-615.