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Shock Appeal


Submitted By judeanago
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Due to globalization and competitiveness in business, organizations roll out different commercials in other to break through the advertising clutter so as to be noticed by the consumers thereby subjecting them to thousands of adverts on daily basis. As a result, they exceed what is considered ethical and the commercial is considered to be very provocative. This has lead to the aim of this research which is to unravel how consumers perceive provocative advertising when shock appeal is used as a conductor.

According to Pickton and Broderick (2005), they opined that advertising is a form of communication used to influence individuals to purchase products or services, support ideas and pass relevant information or caution across to the targeted audience. In delivering those messages highlighted above, ad agency adopts different appeals that can help them reach large number of the targeted audience without encountering high cost. Such appeals adopted are rational appeals, emotional appeals, sex appeal, fear or anger appeal etc. However, for the course of this research, emphasis will be laid on shock appeals .

1.1 RESEARCH OBJECTIVE To identify shock commercials strategies and the extent organization use them.
To define shock advertising and why organization use them.
To identify the relationship between consumer perception of shock commercial. Using gender and age of target audience.
To comprehend how ethical perceptions begins and also, to identify what sets of values or core beliefs might the consumer draw upon when contemplating the ethics of controversial practices in advertising today due to provocative appeal.

1.2 RESEARCH QUESTION The research question will try to explore if shock appeal aids recall and recognition of advert To identify consumer perceptions of shock advertisements and also to investigate if their is any link between such perception with the age of the consumer or gender.

Shock appeal used to produce shock commercials has been in existence for years, and it certainly aids recall recognition of commercial that it is widely referred as “yobbo” advertising in U.K (Dahl et al., 2003). According to Yeshin (2005), he opined that it is an approach designed to startle the recipient deliberately or offend them in other to make them notice the advertisement. Darl et al (2003) in the other hand, defined it as an advertisement that purposefully offends audience.

The scholar that crystallizes this kind of appeal was Vezina and Paul (1994) which they called provocative advertising. They defined it as those commercials with deliberate appeal, within the content of an advertisement, to stimuli that are expected to shock at least a portion of the audience, both because they are associated with values, norms or taboos that are habitually not challenged or transgressed in advertising, due to their distinctiveness and ambiguity. They advised further that when provocative ads is been adopted, it comprises of several concepts and within these concepts are three main components which are of high importance. They are: Distinctiveness:
According to Childers and Houston (1984), they are of the opinion that distinctiveness is the uniqueness of any advertisement. If an ad was made based on the success story of the one made previously or imitated, it will loose its effect because the audience might already be tired of that particular type of provocation and imitating it will weaken the effectiveness. Therefore, when adopting provocative appeal like shock, the challenge of the advertiser is to constantly be original, innovative and keep in mind that successful ads are based on distinctiveness. Ambiguity:
Distinctiveness mentioned above cannot work in isolation to trigger provocation in advert ( Vezina and Paul, 1994). Another factor that helps to create provocativeness is the ability to provide rooms for distinct interpretation if not for the content of the ad, but for the intention of the advertiser. The reason why most advertiser adopt this strategy is because it has the potential to elevate the provocative dimension of the commercial that is provocative in nature and the basic principle behind this deliberate ambiguity is because a provocative message that lack ambiguity is more likely to be dismissed immediately by the audience who are shocked and as a result of this, discard it since it will not be processed by them. Transgression of Norms and Taboos:
When something thats is ascribed by the audience as taboo is used in an ad, provocation is more likely to occur. Commercials that contain the above two concepts are not likely to shock consumers unless it contains transgression of norms and taboos ( Vezina and Paul 1994). They stated that lately, researchers are very interested on this concept because of its inherent effect on conveying the message. Furthermore, they argues that standards of public decency have changed from past decade till date and one of the elements that contributed to that is advertising which is why it is common to find researches discussing issues about ethics in advertising and decency in advertising. Conversely, one can say that changing social norms have probably affected advertising practices also.

In addition, they explain that provocation is elicited through the process of norm violation, encompassing transgressions of law or custom (i.e obscenity, indecent sexual references), things that outrage the moral or physical senses (disgusting images, gratuitous violence) or breaches moral or social code (i.e profanity, vulgarity ). Norm violation is the violation shared expectations within a social group, of their rules and regulation guiding them which define what is acceptable and what is not acceptable (Baron and Byrne, 1997).

Shock advertising breaches all this norms that are in place within a particular social group.
It is against this backdrop that one can categorically say that shock appeal significantly uses surprise as part of the process because it initializes the commercial information processing which consumers are surprise to be aired in T.V as an ad, or seeing in billboards without the regulatory authority banning it. Though, some companies prefer controversial ads because it sells. For instance, what made Sony Play station 3 popular is because of their advert which put all Nigerians as scammers. The ad was banned, but consumers still go to youtube to watch the ad which made the ad very effective but cannot tell it will push audience to purchase the product.

Also, numerous scholars has argued about the effectiveness of shock appeal and such agreement still ends in stalemate on weather the effectiveness supersede the offense generated among the audience. According to Pirowsky (1993), they opined that shock appeal are effective when used to communicate an ad; it will increase the brand awareness but however might decrease the brand sympathy. Conversely, Ann and Kim (2006) insisted that shock appeals turns audience off and make them discontinue from watching the commercial again. They further argues that audience tends to boycott the brand of the company using offensive advert and buy that of competitors that adopts non offensive approach. However, some school of thought like Darl et al (2003) believes it should be used to convey commercials that has to do with warning, caution etc.

In addition, this shock appeal are conveyed through images, sounds or references used to exploit sensitive issues such as violence, religion or sex. It is often used for war against child abuse, warning against tobacco smoking etc. This technique are widely used in commercial and non-commercial organizations. Below as some commercial that made use of shock appeal to convey their messages:
The above adverts surely are not pleasant to the eye as it illicit shock and turn off as well as unethical, but commercials still use them in other to catch attention. According to Marketing week (2003), shock commercials and campaigns create immense controversy, and have been deemed unethical as they are violating ethical norms.

2.1 Controversial Advertising
Controversy in advertising originates from the doggedness of some advertising agency to push their ads deeper in other to stand out from the rest of the ads thereby pushing their ads into controversy so that the audience will be able to recall and recognized the ad (Johnson 1990). More so, shock appeal are been used in other to garner extra publicity ( Armstrong 1998).

According to Davies (1996), he argues that many controversial ad techniques portray, manipulate and use social taboos. He also states that issues such as religious and cultural values, racism, sexual stereotyping and exploitation which are among some of the issues which create immense controversy. I.e. the Benetton’s death-row campaigns that exploits religious and cultural values. This campaign below featured on billboards and in magazine elicited and provoked a public outcry, from victims right groups to civil suits filled by several states for deception to gain access to the prisoners.


Davies (1996) went further to state that since social taboos has continually been exploited, there are concerns that the issue will someday become acceptable norm in society. i.e sexual appeal becoming so rampant in commercial that the public rarely notices it. In the same vain, Marketing Week (2003) also insisted that shock advertising have shifted boundaries further that it has become meaningless. In crystallize, it seems that there is no moral code governing the content of shock advertising, instead the boundaries of what is acceptable to the public no longer exists thereby becoming a norm in the society ( Marketing Week, 2003).

Ethics according to Zinkhan (1994), was defined as a set of moral principles directed at enhancing societal well being. Those moral principles according to Zinkhan are obtained by individual which enable them decide what is right or wrong in a commercial. he also states that this choice maybe developed from the individuals own beliefs, experiences, conscience and values. Bush and Bush (1994) opined that how controversial an ad is can been measured by its level of ethicality.

Both scholars ( Zinkhan, 1994 and Bush et al. 1994) present some issue which affect advertisement ethicality. They are: Influence on children. Sexual and racial stereotyping, Use of fear and sexual exploitation The portrayal of religious and cultural values.

A research conducted by Treise et al (1994), presents that many advertising controversies have breached a number of these ethical issues, with a manipulative and persuasive nature, and a preoccupation with materialism. Both Bush et al and Treise et al (1994) suggest that there are now many advertisements with a controversial nature which indicates a lack of societal responsibility or social well being ( Zinkhan 1994).

Also, Bush et al (1994) suggests that for an ad to be determined as ethical or unethical, it will depend on the analyzer moral philosophy. They also suggested in their research that because of different individual natures, conflicting ideas, rules and interpretation may occur, which leads individual natures, conflicting ideas, rules and interpretations may occur, which lead to conflicting evaluations of whether an advertisement is deemed ethical/unethical or wright/wrong.
Furthermore, it is suggested by Bush et al. (1994) that because ethics is based on moral philosophies; there is no such thing as a right/wrong, ethical/unethical ad: there are only latitudes of ethicality: individuals have different opinions based on their own moral judgement.

Having crystallize the above point, the question which subsequent paragraph will try to answer is consumer’s view on current controversies surrounding advertising today, and are these controversies determined by core beliefs or sets of values that the audience may obtain when deciding the ethicality of controversial practice in advertising.

The process of understanding consumer perception has been recognized as notable barricade to effective communication (Puth et al 1999). it is at this point that the sender who is the company promoting the brand or the client that commissioned the ad does not get through to their receiver (audience) (Aaker and Myers, 1987); especially, since decoding of marketing information correctly depend entirely on the consumer’s perception of the communication content ( Koekemoer, 1991), or further, may influence the level of material abstractness.

Nevertheless, consumers perception is the determining factor on how they react not the basis of objective reality (Puth et al. 1999). Consequently, it is imperative for advertisers to understand the whole notion of perception and its related concepts so as to be able to determine more readily what influences consumers to buy ( Schiffman and Kanuk, 1991).

Perception has a great challenge which is ability of two three or more individual who enjoys same stimuli under apparently the same conditions, but how they select, organize, recognize and interpret those information are solely individual process which is based on each person’s own expectations, needs and values and the like ( Schiffman and Kanuk, 1991). Also, why perception assimilation is cumbersome is because it has been embedded on what is done subconsciously plus or minus from raw sensory inputs to produce a private picture of the world.

This perception understanding process is further complicated by phenomena like thresholds ( a point at which an effect begins to occur), and the possible existence of subliminal perception, perceptual defense and the entire selective perception process.

From this stand point, it can be denoted that individuals view a commercial as a text or story in which symbols, words, sounds, and images conveyed, are interpreted as feature of a story i.e. myth, metaphor, and convention. This interpretation can enable individuals to relate the story interpreted to their own theory of truth because individuals refer to the context of their life experiences when making ethical judgements. This interpretation of advertising are achieved when the underlying symbolic meaning are understood. This can be achieved through narrative probability which according to Bush et al. (1997:7) are factors involved in those question whether a story satisfies the demands of a coherence theory of truth.

This research area is a novel trend since few articles has been written on perception of commercial among age group. However, a research conducted by Nelson (2001) opined that younger consumers are motivated and support shock advertisement than their older counterpart. One factor that determine consumer perception of ads among young and old audience is intergenerational influence which according to Moore (2002) refers to within-family transmission of information, beliefs and resources from one generation to the next. Most scholars argue that it is embedded within socialization theory which is the process through which individual develop specific patterns of behavior ( Moore et al. 2002). They further emphasis that socialization helps society function well by reinforcing particular beliefs, traditions and values. This allows individual develop their attitudes and personal identities as they move through different life cycle stages i.e. adolescent to adulthood. The theorists suggest that family members serve as conduit pipe where information are been passed through, sources of social pressure and support for one another.

By so doing, beliefs, values and attitudes are observed and accepted as the norm by family members. Moore et al (2002) suggested that many forms of influence are transmitted from generations e.g. parents to children which include political affiliation, religious values, gender and racial attitudes.

In conclusion, Shock advertising is useful in the way that it enables brand to get noticed, but it is also useful in the way that it can help governments to communicate messages that need to be, such as the seat belt safety, warning against child abuse, AIDS or alcohol abuse. it was on this note that McGuire (1978) proposed that the shock commercial enhances the information processing as it enhances the attractiveness and the cognition processing of a commercial because after attention, should one follow the information-processing models, shocking stimuli should facilitate message comprehension and elaboration, enhance message retention, and influence behavior ( Dahl et al., 2003)

Also, it may be possible to insist that consumer perception of shock advertising will be shaped or restricted due to intergenerational influences. However, the researcher will use it as a limitation of this study as they wont be able to ascertain that unless a further research is conducted in that area.

This chapter is a fundamental aspect of any research work because whatever method adopted in other to source for research information turns out to be the reference for ideas checking suitability and issues for empirical investigations Flick (2006). In a lay man understanding, methodology is the methods used within a marketing research to retrieve information and it is also, when the researcher get linked with customer, consumer and the public.

The main purpose of this survey is to establish consumer perceptions of shock advertisements and also to investigate if their is any link between such perception with the age of the consumer or gender.
The research philosophy to be adopted in other to achieve the above stated objective will be positivism and interpretivism (Mixed method). This is because this research involves interviewing people on their perception about the research topic and understanding why such perception exist. It is also necessary that the research reflects the principles of both philosophies.

Positivist philosophy believes that human behavior can be measured objectively not subjectively (Hussey and Hussey 1997). Its main theme is the separation of fact and value which also acts as the core purpose, while working within a neutral attitude. Besides, it is often treated as quantitative methodology (Bryman and Bell 2001).

The major demerit of positivism is that it is restricted by phenomena, which can be measured and as well be observed. It does not examine the underlying causal mechanism which was why we intend adopting mixed method so that phenomenology (interpretivism ) will achieve such weakness.

This approach has to do with development of subjective meanings of their experience with certain objects. According to Mainheim (1997), he opined that it is largely applied to living life. This research philosophy make use of qualitative approach in other to get to the route of the investigation.

The demerit has to do with relaying on subjective explanations and often time does not show the true picture of the case of study because of the belief, attitude of the respondent.

Also, inductive and deductive approach will be adopted when deciding the research approach to be used. The aim is to achieve valuable data as described by Saunders et al (2003), and can be used at different stages throughout the project.

This research will contain an exploratory research in other to gain understanding why consumers tend to perceive shock commercial the way they do and also to comprehend why certain interpretation of shock advertising occurs; and the only approach that can tackle this issue is the qualitative method using semi structured interviews, in order to further understand the relationship between variables thereby encourage the researcher to embrace inductive approach. According to Wass and Wells, cited by Saunders et al. (2003), they are of the believe that this technique may also be used to explore and explain themes that may have emerged from the use of the questionnaire which will later be used to validate the findings from the questionnaire conducted.

The first part the research will consider obtaining secondary research about comprehending individuals interpretation and perception towards a commercial and how this may be evaluated. This however, will involve accessing relevant literature or previous studies concerned with this topic. Academic journals, textbooks and relevant articles will be used as the key source of secondary data.

Hypothesis will be developed after conducting secondary data using deductive approach. This will be derived from the information gathered. The hypothesis will be tested using structured question in the primary research.

To achieve questionnaire stated objective and quality information, different types of shock commercials especially the banned or controversial ones sourced from youtube will have to be used within or as a supplement with the questionnaire.

The sample size will consist of 80 respondents in other to achieve sufficient information. This number was chosen so as to evade the normal problem of sampling that has to do with either been too broad or too small. This will be fragmented into demographics i.e gender and age group of between 15- 45.

Non probability sampling technique using quota sampling will be adopted. This is because both approach match the requirements of my research. The first stage of quota sampling involves developing control features or quotas of population elements i.e. men and woman between the ages of 15-45. While the second stage will enjoy the freedom to select elements to be included in the sample once the quotas has been assigned and also, elements fit the control characteristics.


QUESTIONNAIRE DESIGN The questionnaire design will be adopted from Hair et al (2007) and Baker (2003) which present a good guideline for research questionnaire designing. The questionnaire will be structured and questions will be predefined attitudinal answers for respondents to select. Scales like likert scales and rating scales will be used. Shock advertisements from the secondary research will be included.
Pilot test will be conducted on the questionnaire prior to the introducing the main questionnaire so as to identify any necessary improvements on the questionnaire and effect the change forthwith. This will be done two months earlier before the main questionnaire will be applied and will be conducted using 10 respondents for qualitative and 15 respondents for quantitative.

The data collected will be analyzed using Statistical Data Analysis Software (SPSS). The cross tabulation function within the package will enable the researcher identify correlations and advertisement. These different variables, i.e age and consumer perceptions of a shock advertisement. These results will either confirm the theory obtained from secondary research, or indicate the need for its modification.


This research will test whether there is a link between consumer perceptions of shock advertising and age. It seeks to establish significant differences as well as gaining an understanding of the underlying factors which may influence and perhaps constrain the nature of people’s views towards the topic. This will be achieved by conducting questionnaire surveys and group interviews, which is yet to be decided. However this may be used as a means to validate findings gained from the questionnaire and to better achieve the objectives of the research.

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...the persons own personality or characteristics. However, Milgram set out to question this dispositional attribution of the Germans. He believed that the situation had led to the inhumane behaviour of the Nazis and therefore that anybody in the same situation as those committing such atrocities would have done the same in the same circumstances. Milgram argued that people would commit atrocities if required to do so by an authority figure. This argument is an example of a situational attribution as it is arguing that the behaviour resulted from the situation a person was in.  Aim: The aim of the experiment was to investigate what level of obedience would be shown when participants were told by an authority figure to administer electric shocks to...

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...different types of electric shock. They wanted to know which method worked best so that they didnt have to shock the dogs for a long period of time. the population being studied was three goups of dogs seperated to evalutae the behaviors dealt with the different types of shock. They picked this group because they were naive and mongrel dogs, pretty much these dogs werent trained to do anytihing they were freshly picked to conduct as they pleased. This research was conducted in two experiments. each of the three groups of dogs learned escape/avoidance training.Th escaped group and the yoked group gained more raining than the normal control group.The escape group was taught that touching the side panels during the shock would terinate it.this was repeated 64 more times innthe hardness and 10 more time in the shutter bx. the yoked group was trained the same way except the fact that even though touching the side panels terminated the shock for the escape group it was not terminated for the yoked this forst experiment the yoked group learned the concept called learned helplessness. the researchers explaned that since the yoked group could not terminate the shock by touching the side panels they just accepted the fact that it would happen and they could not do anything about it. In the second experiment the researchers designed it to see how the dogs from experiment one would react to an inescapable shock as they did in the first experiment...

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Shock in Literature

...Shock in plays Both Tennessee Williams and Mark Ravenhill set out to surprise and shock their audience In my opinion, shock is a very effective way of conveying a message, as it is an emotional reaction that stays with the audience for a long time, meaning that they remember the scenes until they can consider the significance. As well as this, it is far easier to make people realise something about the society they see as normal if it is possible to put them in a situation where they see actions that are considered ordinary and find themselves shocked by these. For example, the situation of a group of teenagers engaging in casual drug use and self destructive behaviour could be seen as relatively normal and stereotypical today, but when this is explored in depth, the levels of this behaviour become very shocking and make the audience consider whether the stereotypes placed on teenagers – that they will have problems but that these problems will eventually pass, have made them behave in a way that is very unsafe. I think that Ravenhill uses shock value to a far higher extent than Williams, although this may be because his play is far more ‘in-yer-face’ than ‘Streetcar’ and has a faster pace. As well as this, the way in which the play is written makes it difficult for the audience to get lost in the story and ignore the issues explored by the playwright. However, I do think that both plays make the audience question aspects of society, especially the audiences that viewed...

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