Why Controversial Ads Leave You Picking Your Brain

The term ‘controversial’ — which according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes discussion and disagreement, — is embodied within the advertising world. These shock inducing advertisements are embraced within the mass media to communicate a message, and well, what better way to communicate a message than to almost startle someone to death?

Often targeting tabooed topics in society, advertising companies cleverly choose to portray a series of stimulating materials which denote the overall message they want to convey. These materials however, are often attached to a series of negative or explicit connotations also.

TBWA’s advertisement to stop animal cruelty as a part of their ‘Humans for Animals’ campaign.

Take for example the above image, a campaign from global advertising company TBWA entitled ‘Humans for Animals’, denoting the issue of animal cruelty. The vastly symbolic and also distressing image paired with the tag line “Don’t treat others the way you don’t want to be treated” blatantly addresses the problem at hand. The signifier — the monkeys eagerly picking away at the human brain like an experiment — in the foreground is designed to frighten, distress and sicken the audience, evoking a strong repulsion, and thus asking for a response in hope for immediate action.

The image is extremely powerful and even more thought-provoking, leaving the audience questioning the nature of animal treatment within their environment. I personally was left baffled and asking why this form of cruelty is still deemed ‘acceptable‘ in some regions of the world.

But is TBWA and other advertising syndicates taking things too far to expressly convey their messages? Conversely, is this simply a means of education and promotion?

I think that most of the advertisements produced by the mass media, whilst being considerably traumatising like the one above, are none the less effective. Their explicit nature is what captures the attention of the audience, and quite frankly, whether it be positive or negative attention doesn’t particularly matter, so long as the main idea is communicated. And if you ask me, I get the message loud and clear.

– TWBA Paris FRANCE, 2005, Monkeys, Advertisement Image, TBWA France, viewed 23 March 2014, < http://www.sanjeev.net/printads/h/humans-for-animals-330.jpg &gt;

– Merriam Webster Dictionary, 2014,  Define: Controversial, Merriam Webster Incorporated, viewed 23 March 2014, < http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/controversy >

– Wikipedia,  2013, TBWA Worldwide, Wikipedia, viewed 23 March 2014, < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TBWA_Worldwide >

– TBWA France, 2014, TBWA\France Homepage, TBWA France, viewed 23 March 2014, <http://www.tbwa-france.com/ >


3 thoughts on “Why Controversial Ads Leave You Picking Your Brain

  1. Pingback: Bye For Now, Not Forever. | A Blog in the Life of Melissa

  2. Hey Melissa.
    You chose a great example of a controversial text in the media and you’re right, it does provoke thought and gets people talking. I personally think you nailed this blog post on the head because you clearly analyse the text itself as well its affect on the audience. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post and your referencing is great. Great work!

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