At first glance, the advert above could be advertising lingerie for La Senza or Boux Avenue. However at a closer look you come to realise that this is no lingerie advert, this is a Breast Cancer Awareness ad which depicts a model in lingerie exposing a mastectomy scar (which, by the way, is the actual mastectomy scar of Andrea Martin, the founder of the Breast Cancer Fund) with the tagline "But what are we doing about breast cancer?".
This is a prime example shock advertising, a technique which involves using deliberately startling or offensive information to attract attention; for example depicting gratuitous violence which outrages the physical senses (Dahl, Frankenberger, & Manchanda, 2003). The above public service ad uses an unexpected image to create the shock factor.
This type of shock advertising works by presenting you with unexpected information which violates social norms. Normally, when you see a rather attractive model in her underwear striking a suggestive pose, you assume she is advertising lingerie or, at a push, perfume. The advert above contradicts your schema about what ladies in lingerie are usually advertising, resulting in surprise. The surprise is the important part of shock advertising, as this results in us needing to additionally process the advert’s content to try and figure out why this advert has surprised us, which in turn results in a better memory for the shocking advert you have just seen (Hastie & Kumar, 1979).
This technique has been tested by Heckler and Childers (1992) in a two part experiment. Part one involved the participants evaluating adverts which contained either expected or unexpected information for 30 seconds each; the cover story being that their customer feedback was needed. A short maths test was given after the evaluations to clear their short term memory before they left. Part two occurred two days later, which involved showing the participants 64 ads in total; 32 of which they were shown in the previous experiment, and the other 32 were new. The results found that not only did participants remember more adverts containing the unexpected information, they remembered more about the advert content and they also identified more of the adverts which they hadn’t seen before than those who were presented with adverts containing expected information.
So this advert gets the thumbs up for two reasons. One is that it uses persuasive techniques to inform the public about an important issue rather than trying to sell us something, and two is that it’s controversial nature has got many women talking about the dangers of breast cancer!
Sarah Briscoe - Blog 1
Sarah Briscoe - Blog 1
Dahl, D. W., Frankenberger, K. D., & Manchanda, R. V. Does it pay to shock? Reactions to shocking and nonshocking advertising content among university students. Journal of Advertising Research, 43, 268 – 280.
Hastie, R., & Kumar, P. (1979). Person memory: Personality traits as organising principles in memory for behaviours. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 25 – 38.
Heckler, S. E., & Childers, T. L. (1992). The role of expectancy and relevancy in memory for verbal and visual information: What is in congruity? Journal of Consumer Research, 18, 475 – 492.