Shock Value: Does It Work?

What is “shock value” and how does it work?

Shock value in advertising startles, surprises, or offends the audience to either draw publicity or drive success for a campaign. This strategy can often be debated… Can it be taken too far?

What is a good example of shock advertising?

One of the most well-known campaigns that falls under the shock value category is AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign to combat texting and driving. These commercials displayed graphic scenes of car accidents resulting from texting behind the wheel.

In 2017, over 20 million Americans and counting had taken the “It Can Wait” pledge to stand against texting and driving. The shock value of these advertisements drove an emotional response, leading to the success of this renowned campaign.

The “It Can Wait” pledge is still around today, racking up vows daily.

What is a bad example of shock advertising?

On this year’s International Women’s Day, Burger King UK took shock value to a whole new level with a tweet on their account.

At first glance… Yikes.

This tweet was supposed to serve as clickbait followed by promotion for their new scholarship program to help female Burger King employees pursue their culinary dreams, as the culinary field is very male-dominated.

After worldwide backlash, Burger King UK has since deleted their tweet and publicly apologized.

Although their intentions were good, did they take what they thought was “creative” or “shocking” too far? Did they expect to drive negative press in the first place; thus, bringing more attention to their campaign? Was this all planned?

As some people believe, there is no such thing as bad publicity, but perhaps a different approach would have better for Burger King’s campaign, and brand reputation as a whole.

Regardless of your opinion on shock advertising, we can all agree it puts a spotlight on your campaign, whether that attention be good or bad.

Do you think it’s worth it?