Thursday, April 22, 2010

Advertising fear and guilt

I'm curious about this sort of advertising campaign.  In a way, both of these pictures are powerful and will potentially stick with a person, but can they really evoke change in a person's behavior?

Take this one on the left.  Sure, it could be argued that smoking is a slow suicide, as is any action a person takes that is not health-conscious: overeating, eating the wrong things, drinking, or a sedentary lifestyle; but are guilt, fear and antagonism really the way to help people make better decisions?
In these cases, the ads are for good causes, and they're powerful enough to stick with a person for a while.  But, are they actually defeating the purpose of the cause?  I mean, what's the response?   If I run half a load of laundry, is this image supposed to haunt me or simply capture my attention? More likely, it will make me think of all the natural resources a person must have wasted to create this campaign. 

I agree that smoking is dangerous and that environmental responsibility is a good thing, but all these ads do is piss me off.  If I were pro-smoking or thought global warming a myth, these appeals would not change my mind but help me to disregard the opposition as extreme and illogical.


  1. There was an interesting AP article on Yahoo this morning ( It talks about how current environmental problems are less visible than the ones that existed years ago. I think that's why environmentalists sometimes resort to this type of advertising. But don't forget, sometimes when they seem to be screaming that the sky is falling they are right. For example, if politicians had listened to the environmentalists when they said the levees in New Orleans weren't strong enough to handle a major storm the damage to that city and the loss of life would have been much less.

  2. I've always been interested in advertising, and found that in one way or another, all advertising plays upon human emotions, many ads play on guilt and fear, some like these two come right out with their intention and bang you over the head with the message of fear and be guilty for wearing furs. Other ads, play upon fear or guilt in a much subtler way, like "you're not a good mom if you don't buy Jiff peanut butter" or "You'll never get the hot guy if you don't wear this deodorant."

    Do the ads appeal to me, not really...but i do like sniffing out what they are.

  3. Unfortunately, fear is a greater motivator than pleasure.
    That second one is disturbing, though. I thought it was an ad against fur, rather than running a half empty load of laundry.

  4. In today’s society advertising with a focus on fear or guilt probably isn’t really the best choice. People are self-conscious enough. So if you’re going to scare somebody into buying something or not doing something, are they really making that choice or is the advertiser. It is just another way for money hungry people to shape us into mindless followers.
    The ad on the left is really controversial because smoking is somebody’s choice. If they want to smoke and they know the risks of smoking, I’m not going to stop them. I would never smoke myself but I’m not going to judge. And the advertisement on the right just doesn’t make any logical sense. Animals do not die because I have a small load of laundry. Cheetahs are not falling out of my dryer because I have two pairs of jeans, five shirts and a couple pairs of socks. If they really wanted that one to hit home, they should have focused on the global warming issue or how much power people waste for small loads. But in reality, people are still going to have small loads because this advertisement isn’t going to affect society on global scale. They’ll forget about it just like the other thousands of ads we see and disregard. Some kid might see these ads and wonder to themselves if that really happens if mommy doesn’t wash all my clothes, or if daddy smokes is he going to die. It’s just the wrong type of strategy to get anything done right.


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