PETA: changing behaviour through shock value

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Advertising can not just change perceptions but can change behaviour too. One of the best examples I can think of is the effort behind preventing road accidents in Melbourne, Australia for TAC by Grey Worldwide. The TAC’s campaign is reported to have contributed to saving over 10,000 lives and 100,000 serious injuries; the financial savings to Victoria are estimated to be $67 billion. Recently, the hugely awarded Dumb Ways to Die campaign resulted in 20% reduction in accidents and near-misses on the Melbourne Metro. The TAC campaign used shock value to the hilt and the tag line, ‘If you drink and then drive, you are an idiot’ had a deliberately offensive tone to it.

Campaigns for causes, especially those related to getting rid of addictions or ‘bad habits’ – smoking, rash driving, drunk driving, texting & driving, prevention of cruelty to animals and such like seem to adopt shock value as a tactic. The reaction to such visuals can be one of horror, anguish, disgust or even plain fear. I doubt if anyone who has watched the gruesome visuals of accidents or the painful cry of families in the TAC campaign would remain unaffected – such campaigns do force you to think twice before committing the same stupid mistakes shown in the campaign. Two such ads which evoke a reaction of disgust are here:

Bangalore Traffic Police

Agency: Mudra Group, India

Adesf Smoking Awareness: Bookcase

Agency: Neogama/BBH, Sao Paulo, Brazi

On the other hand, some ads don’t evoke the kind of response they would like. For example, this ad, while eerie, evokes a ‘beautiful art!’ reaction in me rather than one of disgust at the habit.


Agency: Neogama/BBH, Sao Paulo, Brazil

In this context, I came across a campaign for PETA which uses extremely shocking visuals to its advantage. In the past too, ads for PETA have used visuals with shock value but of a different kind. The residual image is that of skimpily clad women proclaiming that they would rather go naked than wear fur. This campaign takes a different and effective approach: poaching is driven by demand. So the day you stop buying, they stop killing. It is a practical, market-driven approach and the appeal is likely to strike a chord with consumers. In India, consumers have begun to celebrate festivals like Holi in a eco-friendly way. Campaigns for eco-friendly Ganesh idols and noise-free Diwali have a direct impact on sales. The PETA campaign deliberately takes it to the extreme – with almost impossible-to-see visuals.





Agency: Lowe, Singapore. Via.

The zebra one is the most gruesome to watch. Hats off to the team for the great insight and staging this campaign from a production point of view. I wonder how they managed it. Judging by then reactions when I shared this ad on Twitter – the campaign has evoked the right response. What say?

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