Shock Advertising

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

13 October 2017

Why Shock TV Fails.

Paper-cuts. Shock advertising by Lexus and Direct TV

Shock advertising

Can an insurance brand win without spending a fortune?

Commercial effectiveness is in decline. Advertising agencies try anything to get you to notice the ad. However, it doesn’t work very well. Sometimes you remember the prank and not the brand. I call it shock advertising.

It happens a lot. Even to brands that dominate the airwaves. I rarely notice Progressive or GEICO ads anymore. They focus on process and overlook purpose.

I know I have seen a lot of Progressive’s ads. But what I notice is what they surely hate. All I see in Progressive is that Flo is old and worn around the edges. Not very impressive.

The latest rage in shock advertising

shock advertisingWe all know that mimicry is the highest form of flattery. And I say clearly that I don’t know who was first. But it seems ad agencies get the same idea at the same time.

The in-vogue idea today is make the audience uncomfortable. They reason that, to cut through SPAM, anything is on the table. I get this shock advertising. Just look at my web site’s homepage.

I think we are the only international strategy group highlighting the word SHIT. Our purpose divides the waters. If the word SHIT offends you, you’re not my client. I’m OK with that. You have navigated through a SEA of shit to find us. We just speak truth to power.

Watch these two commercials

These spots are pure shock advertising. One is for Lexus and the other is for DirecTV. The DirecTV ad is more unsettling but on BRAND. DirecTV expresses an absurd humor in its brand. Always has.

For Lexus, the meaning’s lost. Even if the ad predates DirecTV. The Satellite folks do it better. I still look away. Makes me cringe.

“In an effort to get uninterested customers to notice, many advertisers try to shock us. The idea is that we will notice them. It takes real artistry to make this formula work and most everyone fails the test.”

Then we have Enterprise Car Rentals

This takes uncomfortable to a new level. They produce it tongue-in-cheek. And I get the big idea. Enterprise is for control freaks. But the strategy loses a bit in performance. Shock advertising at its zenith.

It is a well-done advertisement. Well casted too. But the level of uncomfortableness is high. I note the message because it is my job to notice. I find the gimmick overruns the message. The process is more important than the purpose. (Read about comparing branding companies here.)

It is a fine line

Flo and Progressive. Shock advertisingIt is particularly difficult for agencies who position themselves as creative shops. Why? Because the best messaging is transparent. You don’t notice the craft. The brand message shines.

When you believe your job is to shock it is impossible to get out of your own way. It is why award-winning advertising fails at persuasion. Maybe it wins peer accolades. But rarely new customers. Unless you spend like crazy. No, THAT is creative.

My final gripe

Shock AdvertisingIf you are like me, your early evening TV viewing is a repeat of the night before. Is it a news program or something similar?

Well these ads that portend to be creative play again. (Read about how insurance needs rebranding here.) And, again. Too many times to count. I see them until I gag. So, what does the CREATIVE create? How about huge spending?

If this genre of advertising works, it is for a short duration. Frequency? Must be infrequent. The advertisers need us to covet the ad. Hope to see it again.

Sadly. They get the reverse.


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