Provocation ads don’t necessarily affect consumer behavior

Studying advertising at university, you’re taught that overly provocative ads can have an opposite effect than it’s intention. This is true. If an ad / piece of creative is too provocative, a viewer will be turned off.

Now, in Europe and the UK, provocative and shocking are pretty normal. When I was over there, it was typical to see cigarette packets with graphic images of blackened/diseased lungs and cancerous mouths.

This will make smoker stop smoking...right?

This will make smoker stop smoking…right?

While I was shocked at this images the first time I saw them, I was even more shocked that the images didn’t deter the people I knew from smoking. That’s not to say that these image didn’t assuage others to either stop or not start smoking in the first place, but in my world it didn’t seem to have an effect. That can be due to alot of factors. For example, people who smoke are ADDICTED to smoking. Once you have an addiction, I’m not entirely sure how effective a picture will be in breaking it. Some people are have stronger stomachs for this type of imagery (I doubt there are alot of people who fall into this category). Of course, the images could have sparked rage in certain consumers who felt like they were being coerced into not making a purchase of tobacco products, and continued to purchase the cigarettes out of spite.

However, I think that if I were a smoker, the images would not have an effect on my behavior. And that is simply because the approach is too radical. I have a visceral reaction to this imagery, but it wouldn’t affect my decision making. Everyone nowadays should know that smoking is bad. But, that doesn’t stop people from buying them. Even with warnings and graphic pics, people are still buying the cancer sticks

This is where we get into why ads should aim to affect decision making as opposed to only aiming garnering an visceral reaction that may have an effect on decision making. How is this done? That’s where it gets tricky. It seems that one way would be to hone into the deep emotional bonds that consumers possess.

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