SHOCKING – or De-sensitizing? 2 December, 2007Posted by paralleldivergence in advertising, education, Internet, Life, shock, TV Shows.
GOVERNMENTS and authorities around the world have been using shock tactics in “Public Service Announcements” for several years now, but their use of graphic advertising has been on the increase. Certainly, it is universally acknowledged that smoking, driving without a seat belt and drugs are dangerous and carry certain risks, but it seems the public needs to be reminded, often on a daily basis, of these dangers in gory detail.
In the above advertisement from Australia, we are shown the real, personal aftermath of a short lifetime of smoking. This is literally one of hundreds of such ads now being aired in countries all over the planet. These may cause smokers to try to quit, but will this stop people taking up smoking in the first place? Many young people have a short attention span and that is especially when it comes to thinking about the future. If they know smoking is not going to kill you within days, then the youth won’t care. This will again be dismissed as everyone who starts smoking believes they can quit at any time. Despite these shock ads, that’s not going to change.
Maybe authorities should move away from the graphic scare campaign and onto more behavior-related methods. Most non-smokers (young and old) are turned off by smoking. Seeing someone you find attractive turn and light up a cigarette is a huge turn-off for so many people. If smokers realised this they might think about it a bit more. Shame not scare.
Now what about all those “horror” safe-driving campaigns? The next one here is a quite powerful one from a series of UK ads based on the “Think!” concept. This one asks from two angles, “How does what you do affect others?”
From Norway came a clever and highly visual example of how seat belts save lives. Here is the Icelandic version of it.
And another of the UK “Think!” ads, this time looking at how driving just a little over the speed limit can really alter a situation, with deadly consequences.
Finally, this is probably the most graphic Public Service Announcement I’ve ever seen. It’s a Canadian Work Safety ad aiming to alert employees to be more vigilant and careful at work. It also pulls at heartstrings by introducing the human in the story to the audience, so she’s not just some nameless, faceless crash test dummy.
So, the real question is, do they work? Are smoking rates going down because of these ads or because its being banned from most indoor areas across the western world? Do more people wear seat belts and less people talk on their cell phone while driving because they’ve been terrorised by these graphic public service announcements or because more and more people are being fined for these offences? Are people slowing down because they are terrified of killing a child or because of the ever growing use of speed cameras? And as for the last ad, hell, I don’t know if I want to go to work tomorrow!
Whether the ads are working or not, there is a pretty serious side-effect. The more these types of ads are shown, the more we as a society are being de-sensitized. Most of the comments at YouTube attached to these ads are mocking the people and situations in them. There’s very little sense of horror and more of the opposite – hilarity. The people commenting at YouTube are Internet veterans. They’ve seen everything there is to see. From hostages being decapitated in Iraq through to the worst imaginable XXX porn. All just a few clicks of the mouse away. Just what will a de-sensitized society be like, I wonder? We may not have to wait too long to find out.