Basic Advertising Objectives
Businesses and organizations advertise to improve their brand names and furnish their competitive edge. Many businesses and organizations advertise to catch consumer attention, positively impact a business/organization, and increase sales and profitability (p.203).1 Through advertising, businesses improve their brand awareness, increasing market share and brand popularity. Advertising also creates new product or service awareness, given that it may seem impossible for customers to prefer a new product/service without testing its benefits (p.203).1 However, Benetton based its advertising campaign on a unique objective differing from typical advertising. Instead of seeking to grab customer attention, Benetton objectively advertised to gain viewer attention. The company pointed out that it preferred a communication strategy that helped it take a stance on real-world issues (p.4).2 The company criticized the usual advertising approach whereby businesses make consumers believe that they cannot be happy unless they use their products or services. Benetton pointed out that through its communication strategy, it sought to play a lead role in society compared to merely promoting its products, which according to its perspective, constituted lies and deception (p.4).2 In its lead role, Benetton believed it addressed the needs of both the young and the old and both its consumers and non-consumers. The company also pointed out that it focused on its controversial communication method as an integral part of its brand awareness campaign to break society’s complacency, expose viewers and customers to life’s reality, and focus on deserving issues (p.6).2 In this lead role, Benetton used its advertising strategy to discuss social issues through popular channels.
Shock Advertising Pros and Cons
While Benetton’s shock advertising strategy earned it notable brand awareness, it also caused discomfort among the general public, leading to destructive criticism of the company. One of the pros of Benetton’s communication strategy is related to society’s awareness of this brand and its popularity among governments, social institutions, and individuals and groups. For instance, after the company themed two black boys kissing in one of its media campaigns, it gained global praise for its role in uniting races and symbolizing peace (p.4).2 By portraying racial harmony, Benetton quickly gained popularity and motivated prospective and existing customers to become part of the organization. The shock advertising method earned Benetton a positive influencer tag in society. Benetton claimed that it broke society’s complacency through its communication strategy and paved the way for the public to address critical issues openly (p.6).2 The communication strategy helped Benetton become a pacesetter as the world listened when this organization spoke through its media campaigns. However, the company’s advertising approach carried cons, which drew negative criticism and influenced its market position in years to come. Benetton defended its advertising method, pointing out that its campaigns avoided displaying its logo only. Instead, it promoted discussions of social issues. The shock advertising approach crossed paths with some parts of society’s interest, drawing legal tussles and tarnishing the company’s name for using the shock advertisement method to achieve dual purposes (p.9).2 In essence, shock adverting’s philosophy and artistic perspective drew mixed reactions and created both connections and disconnections with society.
Toscani brought up a controversial perspective through his claim that journalism accepts offensive images while advertising seems to disagree with this notion. I tend to agree with Toscani’s viewpoint since his company had used potentially offensive images for a long time without legal consequences. Shock advertising represents a traditional advertising means that uses offensive images and messages to capture the public’s attention (p.203).1 As organizations preferring this communication strategy kept up with this practice, they indeed benefitted from increased brand awareness. Given that advertising forms a core part of journalism, I believe that Toscani made a correct claim by asserting that the acceptance of offensive images depends on the receiving party’s viewpoint. My support of Toscani’s viewpoint also emanates from various advertising perspectives. For instance, shock level and norm violation influence adverting success (p.207).1 Through these two perspectives, offensive images can appeal or offend depending on their target audience, content, and nature of the presentation. In his defense of his organization’s communication strategy using shock advertising, Toscani noted that the company’s use of offensive images and motion pictures captures an artistic expression of freedom and interest in contemporary issues (p.12).2 Toscani’s argument holds water since this advertising perspective worked well for the company and probably others seeking to look beyond what they offer consumers. Whereas advertising functions differently from art, a common perspective fails in its bid to explain these two concepts.
Effective Shock Advertising Use
Many organizations and institutions picked and used advertising, with some succeeding while others failed. Shock advertisements shock viewers and the target audience, and this shock highlights a business’ success in using this strategy. The World Wildlife Fund (Brazil) seemed to prefer shock advertising and used it in an advert that drew public uproar. Seeing to draw interest to a 2009 disaster tsunami, this organization depicted dozens of airplanes headed for the World Trade Center.3 The advert drew public criticism since it seemed to celebrate or acknowledge the World Trade Center’s bomb attack. In my view, humanitarian and human interest organizations can use shock advertising to pass their messages to the general public and impact it accordingly. Shock advertisements meet their goal when they violate societal norms and values instead of using these violations to address core societal issues (p.203).1 I believe that humanitarian and human interest groups can use shock advertising to highlight the rot in society and trigger public reactions to this rot. However, in using shock advertising, these organizations must first understand advert effectiveness and ineffectiveness. Knowledge of effectiveness and ineffectiveness can assist these organizations appropriate their target violations and draw the right and sufficient public reaction.
Benetton’s Decision and Dropping Shock Advertising
Benetton’s decision to drop shock advertising in favor of conventional advertising after Toscani’s departure may have been the best decision to steer the business in the right direction. Although shock advertising influenced Benetton’s success, the business could have still succeeded using conventional methods like other companies. Shock advertising violates society’s ethics and morals entirely. For instance, shock adverting’s level of shock utilizes impropriety, taboos, moral offensiveness, sexual references, and disgusting images to influence viewers and target audience.2 Although businesses such as Benetton successfully used this strategy to grow their income, the strategy feels like a prick of society’ wellbeing and choosing to disturb the tranquility associated with forgetfulness. As society tries to cover moral wrongs and the depreciating moral aspect, shock advertising brings memories and dares society to talk about these issues. Benetton made the right decision to shift from this advertising perspective since the present-day enlightenment could not have allowed the company to see the light of day regarding business prosperity. In its looking ahead strategy Benetton pointed out that it wished to distance itself from political and social causes in society since they did not sit well with its consumer interests.2 I believe the business made the right decision to drop shock advertising since it outlined its newly-founded desire to focus on its clothing line, cease to offend and make great clothing. Toscani’s exit from the company kick-started its pursuit of typical, contemporary advertising.
- Urwin, B. Shock advertising: Not so shocking anymore. An investigation among generation Y. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences. 2014; 5(21), 203-214.
- Ganesan, S. Benetton Group: Evolution of Communication Strategy. 2003; 1-20.
- Bhasin, K. 26 incredibly daring ads that were made to shock you. Business Insider. 2011; https://www.businessinsider.com/shock-ads-2011-7?IR=T.