This advertisement, where we can read the sentence “AIDS is still out there and it still kills”, was created by YOUTHAIDS, an HIV/AIDS fundraising and awareness campaign of Population Services International (PSI) targeting young people ages 15-24. The two main components that are used here are sex and death, in order to catch the attention of the people that see this ad.
Research shows that sex in advertising attracts attention so, as we can see, it is used at the beginning of the poster in order to make teenager stop in front of it and pay attention to each of the drawings, until they reach the end of the poster and read its message.
In a study conducted by Elizabeth Monk-Turner in 2008, they saw that if sex was used in a commercial, it was more likely to appear in and advertisement aimed at a male audience. For this reason, we can see how the main character, the one that ends up dying, is a male, in order to aware the need to practice safe sex.
On the other hand, they use an emotional approach by creating in the viewer a sense of fear of death. It is known that fear can motivate people to act and is often necessary in health-related messages, as a person who has risky health behaviours needs to know he is in danger.
Shehryar (2005) showed that results from 2 experiments indicated that participants who were highly committed to a worldview of drinking alcohol rejected socially acceptable attitudes toward drinking and driving when the message containing such attitudes was accompanied by a fear appeal that contained death as a consequence, but not when fear appeals contained the fear of arrest or serious injury.
These results are related with terror management theory (TMT), which shows that the nature of the threatening consequences included in fear-appeal communications influences the responses to the messages promoted in such communications. As the negative consequence of this ad is death, we will expect that this will have more impact in people’s attitudes than if the consequence presented was lighter.
In a nutshell, creating fear of death in the individuals is a common and useful way to change people’s thoughts and attitudes when talking about health. Also sex is a good way of attracting people’s attention, especially teenagers, as sex is something that is present directly or indirectly in their everyday life.
Monk-Turner, Elizabeth, Kristy Wren, Leanne McGill, Chris Matthiae, Stephan Brown, and Derrick Brooks. "Who Is Gazing At Whom? A Look At How Sex Is Used In Magazine Advertisements."Journal of Gender Studies 17.3 (2008): 201-209.
Shehryar, O., & Hunt, D. M. (2005). A Terror Management Perspective On The Persuasiveness Of Fear Appeals. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 15(4), 275-287.