What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are. C.S Lewis
Nearly every company, especially charities and retail shops, set up different types of campaigns and advertisements. These include photo and television adverts. The context of these adverts can be soft and easy to look at but some are not as they have introduced shock advertising. This is a type of advertising that is made deliberately and normally highly offends or scares the viewer. Shock ads usually contain graphic imagery and dull sayings. Shock advertising is also known as shockvertising.
This is sometimes chosen over ordinary adverts because they are designed to stand out and break through the chaos of all the other normal adverts. They attract attention to either the subject the advert is about or it captures the viewers attention towards the certain brand. The photographers that take and edit the photos for the adverts either digitally manipulate the images to make them seem more graphic or some use real images. Shockvertising is known to be disturbing and controversial. The way each individual sees these images is a figment of their own perception.
Perception is the ability to become aware by seeing or hearing something through your senses. This realization can be changed when sensing something that has had a positive or negative effect on you in the past.
I am going to investigate why chosen campaigns were run using shockvertising and why they were so offensive.
The 2 main campaigns will be by Benetton and Barnardo?s. I will be showing the difference between the 2 companies but the similarity of their advertisements. Some of the adverts and photos that will appear were taken specifically and others have been digitally manipulated to create an image that would shock.
The media, including programmes, films, adverts and other forms of photography all produce shocking images once in a while. We see these in natural environments so depending on how shocking the images are, depends on how shocked the viewer becomes. Many war, horror and thriller films contain graphic, life-like imagery and these are seen often so viewer?s become used to seeing them.
Why do so many people get offended when they see shocking adverts showing real life situations?
Surely it should not shock the viewer to the point that they send in complaints but it shocks them to the point that they understand what will happen or has happened when they see the campaign images. Barnardo?s brings out many campaign advertisements and they never fail to shock and induce complaints.
So when do charity shock advertisements go too far?
It is said that as a nation we have become desensitized, it takes more and more graphic images to shock us.
So due to our increasingly high shock threshold, how far will they go to make sure their advertisements shock?
Campaign shock ads are starting to push the boundary as it is getting harder to be noticed.
Found in 1866, Thomas John Barnardo created a British charity to care for young, vulnerable children.  It is the UK?s largest children?s charity, in terms of charitable expenditure. Over the years Barnardo?s has created many campaigns and advertisements. These include campaigning about child poverty, sexual exploitation, and children in care. Considering how graphic some of their adverts have been, I researched to see if they had any problems with their photography in the past. In the beginning work of Barnardo?s, they were accused of  falsifying photographs of children to make the distinction between the period before Barnardo?s rescued them and afterwards seen more dramatic. The reason for the use of Barnardo?s advertising campaigns is to raise and attract attention for the work it does. Their campaigns are one of many in which the adverts have been banned.
Based in Italy, the Benetton group is a global fashion brand that was founded by the Benetton family in 1965. They sell shoes, bags, clothing and accessories in the fashion industry. The adverts that Benetton make are mainly to advertise their clothing and are photographed by Oliviero Toscani. One of his most famous campaigns was for Benetton and includes a photo of an AIDS victim, David Kirby, dying in a hospital bed surrounded by his family. The adverts created by Toscani contained prominent, outstanding images that were not related at all to the products being sold by the company. Another one of his adverts was featuring in the Guinness World Records 2000 as ?Most Controversial Campaign?.
 ?Everybody started to understand that advertising is not just pushing products, consumption, but it?s an important communication system? ? Oliviero Toscani. Years after working with Benetton, he raised 2 more controversial advertising campaigns that included homosexual images for a men?s clothing brand called ?Ra-Re? and a shocking image to campaign against anorexia. This shows how striking and controversial his photography and adverts were. Most of the adverts contained a small image of the company?s logo which was usually the only text to accompany the image.
Barnardo?s child poverty campaign in 2003 was made to highlight the potential harmful effects that poverty can have on any child?s future. They illustrate that ill-health, drug and alcohol abuse is more likely to arise in children that are born into poverty. The two main images that show this are the images of a baby, one with a bottle of methylated sprits and another with a cockroach, both object in the child?s mouth.
These two advertisements were made to highlight these outcomes. These photos were all part of the silver spoon campaign. The perception behind this campaign refers to the maxim ?born with a silver spoon in your mouth?  meaning that you?ll be born into a life of opportunity and prosperity. They have used this metaphor with the image to pinpoint the fact, that not every child born into the world will fulfil a life full of hope and prosperity.
The target audience for these campaign advertisements would be parents as they are experienced and understand what it is like to give birth and have the responsibility to bring up a child making sure they have the best chance of success.
Other audiences would be people planning to have a baby as it makes the think about the obligation that they have once they give birth. Middle to higher class people will be a target audience because these are the people who will be able to donate towards the campaign and charity. It also gives them an idea of what life is like for people with less money than them. Due to the graphic content of these adverts, young people will not be the target audience as it may cause distress.
I believe this because they will have something to compare the difference to and it will emphasise the shock of the campaign image. The text on the advert has been positioned out of the way of the photo and is laid out in the form of a newspaper article with formal language, this makes it look more formal and emphasises the seriousness of the issue being shown. Nevertheless, the juxtaposition of the text and image together helps provoke the wanted response from the audience.
The slogan ?There are no silver spoons for children born into poverty? makes the purpose of the campaign become clear. The text of the slogan is also more enlarged that the rest so the viewer notices it first. Another reason for the text to be placed at the side would be to make sure the strong image has the full dominance of the advert poster. They have used two juxtaposed images; one shocking the audience about poverty and the other showing how different the baby would be without poverty. The images that represent babies in poverty have dark contrasting colours which will make the target audience get the feel of real deprivation and children in poverty.
Depending on whom the viewer is and what they have been through in their life changed the emotion they feel when they see the advert. If the viewer grew up in poverty, when they see this advert it would make them feel unhappy as it will remind them of their possible neglected childhood they received. It could also trigger a suppressed memory that they no longer wanted to remember.
On the other hand, the image of the baby in good health has a brighter and light coloured theme which creates a different emotion in the viewer; it will make them feel relieved that the certain baby is safe, especially if the viewer is a mother. The campaign?s advertisements were banned. I believe that the campaign did not reach its audience or highest publicity to focus the public on the main issue and danger of poverty.
If the viewer has no background in poverty and they see this advert, they will not express the same emotions as the person before. They would show emotions such as shock, fear and guilt. Due to how graphic and real the images are they would be shocked at how a baby can be put in such danger and scared that they danger could increase for the child. The poster is only an image, an image that shows what has already happened to many children brought into a world of poverty and they could feel guilty that they cannot already be helped. The feelings of guilt could be overcome by the viewer donating towards the campaign or taking their own action.
Benetton has gained a reputation for and due to their shock advertising since the 1980?s. Although it caused substantial dispute, it has heightened the fashion brands recognition. The photographer, Oliviero enlightened his philosophy:  ?La pub est une charogne qui nous sourit?. This means that ?Advertising is a smiling carrion? which is the title of his book.
He then went on to accuse traditional advertising methods as dull and containing no imagination. He believes these adverts create and portray a world that does not exist but is ideal for society. Instead of highlighting the emotion t he viewer feels when they see a photograph from Toscani, he reveals in an interview the type of people who see the photo.  ?There are people who, when they look at a picture, they get angry at it. But they should get angry at themselves for not having the courage to look into the problem? he told CNN.
The company seemed to take over the advertising industry with its own provocative shock adverting. Some contemplate that these controversial images Benetton reveals are globally relevant and real. Although they were banned, the courts own judgment does not always reflect the majority public opinion.
The campaigns gained mixed reactions. This could be explained by the theory of selective perception.  Selective perception is the process by which individual selects, organizes and evaluates stimuli from the external environment to provide meaningful experiences for themselves. Oliviero Toscani believes that there is no such things as a shocking picture, that there is only shocking reality that is being reproduced through photography for the people who are not there to see the reality. I carried out research using a questionnaire with photos of Benetton?s advertising images. The results show that 2 out of 10 people found the images offensive. They both chose photo 1 which is the angel and devil photo as the only photo that offended them.
Every photo has an immediate emotional impact on the viewer. It is down to the viewer?s perception. There are 2 elements that contribute to the perception of a photograph and these include; seeing the photograph as a representation of reality and the viewer?s interpretation of what they see. Along with this, adding elements to a photograph creates an incorrect perception.
This campaign?s advert for sexual exploitation and prostitution of children is the one that shocked me the most. The setting of the photograph is in a filthy, unhygienic men?s public toilet. The state of the bathroom is dirty and degraded much like the situation that the boy is being put through. The state of the bathroom and what is happening to the boy is corresponding. The face of the young boy has been digitally manipulated to show an old looking face.
This represents that the boy?s childhood has been taken away and he has not lived his life the way he wanted to. It also reflects the damage and trauma that is caused to children by sexual abuse. The sad and helpless expression on his face indicates that he is definitely not happy with what is about to happen. He is using his face to beg for help; it is a photo so he cannot ask for help.
His posture is shrugged down with his hands crossed and holding each other. He is using them as a barrier, showing that he is not open to sexual exploitation. His code of gesture is scared and innocent. There is a tall man close to the camera wearing a suit, his trouser belt has clearly been unbuckled and is suggesting that he is about to make the young boy carry out a sexual act. The contrast between the boys old face against his young body is meant to be the main focus point of the advert.
The gaze of the young boy is straight at the camera, this is as if he is trying to connect with the viewer and look them in the eye. The photo is taken to show that the boy has been backed into a corner; this is condescending and proposes that he cannot get out or back away. The man standing in the photo who is obviously the abuser has got most of his face and body hidden. In my opinion, this indicates that you cannot always tell who has committed sexual prostitution or exploitation.
Something I also noticed is that both the victim and abuser are both male. The usual stereotype is that young girls are mainly the target of men, this shows that young boys are in just as much danger from men and woman as are girls. The consistent tagline and help call is repetitive as they want the viewers to notice and help. Using shockvertising in this campaign is very effective, especially in promoting social change and gaining attention through all the media popularity and chaos of other adverts. It creates cognitive dissonance; in this state the viewer may feel guilt and anger. The visual metaphor that the advert creates presents the psychological damage and distress that is caused by sexual exploitation and abuse. The image used violates social norms as it is not something people see every day or redeem to be normal; the ad creates tension over their audience. The overall shock and popularity of the ad, forces people to face the fact that sexual abuse is a strong issue within our society and it needs to be highlighted. Due to the dispiritedness of the photo, it created a mix of reactions; t hey gained respect in the advertising industry but the public audience complained the images presented were uncomfortable and too explicit. I believe that along with Barnardo?s other campaigns they use shockvertising well and it is very effective.
. It was classed as controversial because of how similar it was to a pieta painting. The original photo was black and white but the advertisers of Benetton wanted to make it coloured to make it more shocking and like a real shock ad.
Within the 4 people in the photo, none of them are gazing at the camera. This makes it appear that they are not trying to connect directly with the viewer.
One of Oliviero Toscani?s most famous campaigns for Benetton was the AIDS image of David Kirby. In this photo, David Kirby is dying of AIDS with his family around him.
Controversy also came to the advert as some thought the use of this image to sell the brands clothing was exploiting David Kirby. People might have thought this because the image content makes it look like the people were not aware it was being taken. The Kirby family had to state that they authorized the use of the photograph to help increase AIDS awareness. The setting in which the photo has been taken in is a recognisable scene.
To some people the room Kirby is in could, for them, represent a hospital room or even their own room. The effect of this would depend on the individual viewers? perception as their past experiences could make them relate to the situation shown. For me, I have not experienced a family or friend death due to AIDS so my reaction will be different to someone who has. As I have not experienced the daunting effects of the illness, I feel like I have not been personally warned about AIDS. The closest warning I can get would be an advertisement like Benetton displays. I believe it has a strong enough message to warn the nation.
?What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.? C.S Lewis. I believe this quote is true due to different perceptions each individual has. 20 people could look at one image and all see something completely different. Everyone takes something different from the picture; we all have a mind framed by our past experiences. From my research I learnt that the whole point of using shock advertising is to capture media attention and increase awareness of a problem. Companies and charities use campaigns not only to raise awareness but to advertise their service. I believe that the reason for most reactions of shockvertising is being offended is because people do not like being confronted. When confronted with harsh problems that we do not want to believe are real, we try to forget about it and supress the memory of seeing or hearing it.
Depending on how real the photo looks and the content is, I think will change how the viewer reacts to it. If the advert looks fabricated, I believe the viewer will not develop real emotions therefor not reacting on the adverts behalf. I think the key to receiving the wanted reaction from a viewer is to make the advert as real to an individual as it can but at the same time, targeting it to a larger audience. Many adverts have crossed ?the line? when trying to shock, this is because of how popular shockvertising has become and it is now harder to stand out as a shock ad. Due to the amount of graphic nature one sees, our shock thresholds are becoming higher. Companies and charities are now having to go the ?extra mile? when trying to shock because they believe we have ?seen it all? so they then deliver something on a shock level we have not seen. Pushing the boundary will not only push the target audience away but may not receive the positive feedback needed. If shock advertising becomes a competition between these companies then they may lose their insight for what they are actually trying to do. Overall, creating the right image is important for the appropriate response.