Best and worst of social marketing – do scare tactics work?

I’ve been seeing a lot of Public Service Announcements lately, some which I found to be quite effective, and others that just make me cringe. It got me thinking, so many organizations out there promote their issue by using scare tactics or graphic imagery to catch their audiences’ attention and cut through the clutter.

But do scare tactics really work? For example, the ad below is for the Workforce Safety and Insurance Board, and is meant to promote the prevention of accidents in the work place.

Prevent It
Client: Workforce Safety and Insurance Board
Agency: DraftFCB, Toronto

*Warning: Graphic Content and Disturbing Imagery*

In my personal opinion, the ad is pretty hard to watch. It no doubt makes an impact, but is it memorable for the wrong reasons? There are a lot of examples of social marketing like this, that use shock value to create a buzz. I touched on this issue briefly in a previous post on this blog for the Papakura District Council’s bloody billboard.

Is a hard sell approach such as this really necessary? I think a character trait of being Canadian is that we prefer to focus on the positive outcomes of an issue instead of the negatives. So do these negative PSA’s really work for us? Sure, we remember the graphic nature of the marketing, but I think it’s the same horrific content that makes a lot of people switch off and disconnect from the message.

The ad below for The United Way of Canada is an example of showing the positive side of an issue. They could have shown graphic imagery of youth violence and the disturbing worst case scenario, but instead they went in the other direction and showed how donating to their cause can actually make a difference.

A Way Out
Client: The United Way of Canada
Agency: Publicis, Toronto

Another example is the print campaign below for Good Shepherd hostel in the Hamilton region. The campaign puts a face on an issue, allowing the audience relate to the person, not just the problem.

Faith in People
Client: Good Shepherd
Agency: Manifest Communications, Toronto

GSC08003_transit-17.18x24.818-B.indd GSC08003_transit-17.18x24.818-B.indd

Again, they could have taken this campaign in a different direction, but I don’t think it would have worked as well.

What do you think? Do scare tactics work? Does graphic imagery help or hinder an organization in getting it’s message through? Which approach do you think is the most effective? I look forward to seeing your response below.

– danvertising



2 Responses to Best and worst of social marketing – do scare tactics work?

  1. Matt says:

    The “A Way Out” ad is really nice. The first one made me laugh so I looked up more and they just get funnier from there. Did you see the girl falling in the store? Oh man.

  2. danvertising says:

    Yah I’ve seen them. When they’re over the top like that, I don’t think most people take it seriously.

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