Threatening communication is commonly used in advertisements to persuade individuals to comply with what is being promoted. It invokes fear in the audience or makes them believe they will face “dire consequences” if they do not adhere. This technique is referred to as ‘fear appeal’ and is believed to be a highly persuasive technique as it triggers emotional responses (LaTour & Zahra, 1988).
Marketers often use fear endorsement techniques, as it is known to cause behavior changes and motivate consumers to compel to what is being advertised. Tannenbaum (2013) conducted a meta-analysis including 132 papers that used fear appeal in 13 distinct domains. These ranged from influencing people to stop smoking, to brushing their teeth, eating healthy or even the using of condoms. The results revealed a positive linear effect of using fear appeal on overall behavior changes. As we know people protect themselves all forms of threats. So when faced with a new threat (the fear appeal), it initiates a coping appraisal based on four variables (Oakley, 2014) described in the table below:
This poster uses fear appeal by conveying to the audience the possible risk of various cancers if fruits and vegetables are refrained from. It includes efficacy messages that increase the positive effect of causing a change in the behavior of the audience i.e eating lots of fruit and vegetables could reduce the risk of mouth, oesophageal, bowel, throat, lung and some types of stomach cancers (World Cancer Research, 2007; Boeing et al., 2006). This advert attempts to portray that the consumption of 5 fruits or vegetables a day to lower the risk of health problems. The 5 A DAY campaign follows the NHS recommendations to form a healthy, balanced diet. This advert mentions the benefits of fruits and vegetables and provides guidelines as to what the appropriate amount is, making it clear to follow for the viewers.
Boeing, H., et al., Intake of fruits and vegetables and risk of cancer of the upper aero-digestive tract: the prospective EPIC-study. Cancer Causes Control, 2006. 17(7): p. 957-69.
World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research, Food, nutrition, physical activity and the prevention of cancer: a global perspective. 2007, Washington DC: AICR.
Tannenbaum, M. (2013). Do scare tactics work? A meta-analytic test of fear appeal theories. Psychologicalscience. org.
Oakley, T. (2014). The growth of fear appeals in advertising. the Marketing Agenda. Retrieved 24 February 2016, from https://themarketingagenda.com/2014/09/11/the-growth-of-fear-appeals-in-advertising/.
Batty, D. (2003). Q&A: five-a-day campaign. the Guardian. Retrieved 24 February 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/society/2003/jan/20/medicineandhealth.publichealth1.
LaTour, M. S., & Zahra, S. A. (1988). Fear appeals as advertising strategy: Should they be used? Journal of Services Marketing, 2, 5-14.