It is not only the images used that can be shocking; in some adverts it is what the image can convey. An example of this is in the Marie Stopes Abortion advert. There is a lot of text, which seems to be just a lot of information, so the reader does not bother to read it straight away. There is also one main picture of a coat hanger that has been untangled, which seems to be irrelevant. The reader would probably dismiss this advert, but then they read the headline, which say’s “When abortion isn’t an option, some Women have stab at it anyway”.
This line is very poignant when juxtaposed with the picture. When the sinister reality suddenly dawns on the reader, it gives a sense of both disgust and shock. These reactions are expected, because it is these types of reactions that prompt the reader to find out more about the organization, and how they could prevent this from happening to more women. This advert is also quite clever, because although it is shocking, it is only shocking to a certain type of person. It is only accessible to older people; children would see the text and would not bother to read it further, because of all the writing. For the people that do understand it, it also leaves a lot the imagination, which makes it really powerful.
That is not to say that non-shocking adverts are not effective, because there are many devices that are used that immediately attract interest from the reader. The way in which language is used is a prime example of this. Just by using a witty or clever headline they immediately grab the readers attention, as shown in an advert for Macmillan Cancer Relief. It uses the simple image of a man who is deep in thought and in small letters across the picture it reads, “Today he doesn’t have cancer”.
This is a very thought provoking remark; because it could mean that today he doesn’t have cancer because the organization saved him. It could also mean today he doesn’t have cancer, but what about tomorrow? This would interest the reader to find out more about the organization and because there is no more text on the page to bore the reader stiff, they would have to ring up the charity to enquire bout some information.
If you look at the shocking adverts some of them overstep the mark and go from shocking to adverts so traumatizing you would still be telling your psychiatrist about it in twenty years time. An example of this is an advert the RSPCA did to try and portray the number of dogs that have to be destroyed in the UK every week. The focus that caused the most outrage was the image of a pile of dog carcasses that was at least six feet high. This was in extremely bad taste, not to mention the implications it would have had if by any chance a child had managed to come across it. An advert should not be so shocking that it is cruel, for either the person reading it or the person/animals taking part. Do we really need to go to these extreme lengths just to get people to part with their money?
It is arguable that there is already enough violence and cruelty to animals done in society without the RSPCA, of all organizations, giving people more ideas. The whole advert cycle is like a drug habit: the more violent or daring an advert is, the more violence we become used to. So slowly over time to get the same reaction as it did in the beginning, an advert needs to use up more senseless violence because we are becoming more immune and desensitized.
Shocking adverts like the one in question could also have a completely different effect to the one desired. The plan to shock people in to giving their money to that charity could backfire, and instead of them wanting to contribute, it could put them off donating to the charity. Advertisers should know when to stop. Adverts for charities should be dramatic, but the images and style in which an advert is packaged should also be easy to take in.
In my view I think that adverts have to be shocking in order to provoke a response. It has come to a point where it is necessary to portray the advert in a shocking way in order for it to be acknowledged. This does not mean however that I applaud charity adverts such as the RSPCA advert, because I believe those adverts to be both wrong and hypocritical. How can an organization that is supposed to promote animal welfare be so far off the mark?
However it is important to maintain a balance between shocking and non-shocking adverts. It is because of the excessive use of shocking adverts that we have become immune to them. The advert should be easy to take in, but it should also linger in the mind and have a good impact in order for it to be successful. The abortion advert is a good example of this: it is both shocking and effective, but it has a sort of safety lock on it to ensure the wrong people do not see it. Anyway, if you still believe that non-shocking adverts are most effective, and if you are still unsure about the place of violence in our society just look on the Internet. I mean, where else but on an animal welfare website would you find games such as electrocute the puppy and win $20?