Controversial Advertising is a tricky topic.
Creative v. Effectiveness
“Within the advertising industry, there seems to be a never-ending struggle between those who cre- ate the advertising (“creatives”) and those advertising managers who insist that it be “effective” as mentioned in the Journal of Advertising Research (Koyer et al. 1995). The research carried out in journal article Creativity vs. Effectiveness? An Integrating Classification for Advertising, discovers consumer reactions due to emotional advertising appeals to assist with defining “advertising perceived as both creative and effective” (Koyer et al. 1995). In trying to produce new, edgy and effective advertising, some advertisers find themselves appealing to the target audience using appeals based on shock value. Some feel it’s the only way for a brand to obtain a competitive advantage.
Why the use of Controversial Advertising?
B. Zafer Erdogan, Associate Professor of Marketing Bilecik University, Turkey, noted the rationale behind brand’s using controversial advertising in his Guest Editorial in the Journal of Marketing Communications — “it cuts through clutter and brings about a ‘shock value’ for the brand” (Erdogan 2008). Erdogan also noted that controversial advertising (in 2008, when the journal article was published) was becoming an increasing major concern to both consumers and businesses (Erdogan 2008).
What are the ‘side effects’ to Controversial Advertising?
Erdogan also touches on the negative implications of employed controversial advertising tactics, that being “banning, wastage of advertising spend, interventions from regulatory bodies, and/or customer boycotts affecting the value of brand equity” (Erdogan 2008).
Does it work?
In trying to create effective advertising by adopting controversial/shock advertising techniques – do the advertisers succeed? The Journal of Advertising Research in an examination of the effectiveness of shock advertising found that “shocking content in an advertisement significantly increases attention, benefits memory, and positively influences behavior” when compared to the commonly used appeals of “fear and information” (Dahl et al. 2003). The examination was specific to University Students and HIV/AIDS advertising campaigns, however the results can be generalised to all controversial advertising categories after understanding the increased effect on consumers due to advertising employing shock value tactics (Dahl et al. 2003).
Dahl, DW, Frankenberger, KD, Manchanda, RV 2003, ‘Does It Pay to Shock? Reactions to Shocking and Nonshocking Advertising Content among University Students’, Journal of Advertising Research, vol. 43, issue 3, pp. 268-280, Cambridge Journals, Cambridge University Press, viewed 15 August 2012.
Erdogan, BZ 2008, ‘Controversial Advertising’, Journal of Marketing Communications, vol. 14, issue 4, pp. 247-248, Taylor & Francis Online, Swinburne University of Technology, viewed 15 August, 2012.
Koyer, AJ, Goldberg, SM, James, WL 1995, ‘Creativity vs. Effectiveness? An Integrating Classification for Advertising’, Journal of Advertising Research, vol. 35, issue 6, pp. 29-40, Ebscohost, viewed 15 August 2012.