Does shock still have value?

This video has been watched several million times online.
The issue may be a relatively new one, the tactic of using shock to get a message across isn’t. But can it still have the same impact, or have we become desensitised?

When Italian fashion firm Benetton used the picture of American Aids victim, David Kirby, surrounded by his family as an ad for the firm’s Aids campaign it caused so much controversy.

Now another one is taking place, this time with a German ad agency. A steamy new Aids awareness advert showing an Adolf  Hitler look alike having sex has  has come under fire by activist groups for stigmatizing those who are infected with the virus.The ads that also feature Joseph Stalin and Saddam Hussein look alikes, are part of the “Aids is a mass murderer” campaign. Just to warn you, this video contains explicit sexual content, but if you choose to watch it , how shocked are you by it?

“The campaign is designed to shake people up, to bring the topic of Aids back to centre stage, and to reverse the trend of unprotected sexual intercourse,” Das Comitee, the ad agency, said. So, how shaken are you?

Take a look at these ads; one about the vicious cycle of child abuse  , the other about drug driving . Also this picture  of 27-year-old Isabelle Caro that has been on display in Italy during the Milan Fashion Week to raise awareness about anorexia. All quite a disturbing watch.

Many adverts use shock tactics to get people’s attention but as these ads get more shocking all the time how much value do they have? And if we’re constantly exposed to shocking images, do we become immune to them? Does shock still have value?

This blogger thinks not, ‘goin’ to Acapulco’ says:
“Shock journalism and photography is a cheap way to gain the public’s attention. True it grabs the eye and draws the consumer into the ad, but it does not address the products purpose.”

Is he right? Are we all shocked out? Or do we need to be shocked to pay attention sometimes?

19 Responses to “Does shock still have value?”

  1. 1 Vijay Pillai
    September 9, 2009 at 20:47

    What happen if some people have a heart attack seeing these adverts designed to shock people in general? can the insurance firm claim money from the advertisers for their clients?

  2. 2 steve
    September 9, 2009 at 21:55

    When people do this, or use nazi to describe everything they don’t like, it diminishes what the nazis did. To compare Hitler to AIDS, which is pretty much in most cases preventable if people act responsibly, it really cheapens the mass murder of Hitler. You couldn’t take safeprecautions with Hitler like using condoms or using clean needles, you were dead simply becaues of who you were, not your actions, like in many cases of AIDS. It may not be PC, but it’s pretty insulting to compare Hitler to AIDS.

    • 3 Mike
      November 14, 2009 at 07:16

      True, a condom wouldn’t have stopped Hitler, but a little common sense on the part of the German people would have.

      The same common sense that people lack when approaching sexual situations.

  3. 4 tkoller
    September 9, 2009 at 21:58

    The fact that this is a topic is an obvious yes. Now you just need to decide if the effect is what you want. It is good for getting attention, but lacking in information. As always, shock is a useful tool.

  4. 5 Tom D Ford
    September 10, 2009 at 04:03

    I think that shock has value but that it has to be presented very carefully to be effective to the maximum number of people. Some will turn away but some will take a life long lesson.

    I watched a documentary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps when I was a child on a US Air force Base in the 1950s and those images are burned into my mind and help guide me against oppression of humans in any form.

    • 6 Ann
      September 10, 2009 at 08:31


      The pictures and documentaries from the death camps had the same effect on me. So too the pictures of the slave ships I saw as a child.

      Many people in the west now live relatively safe, comfortable lives and are untouched by the terrible horror and dreadful suffering that others experience. Caring about others is so important and if shocking images hit home and encourage people to want to help or change their behaviour then I believe it is worth doing. If the ‘text messaging’ ad saves one life then it has achieved it’s purpose. One hopes it will get through to young men and their invincible attitude to driving… for young people in rural areas in Scotland losing at least one friend in a car accident is sadly becoming like a horrible ‘rite of passage’.

      The Benetton awareness ad using Hilter et al however seems like a stupid and immature attempt and is more likely to harm Aids victims and their families than help them. Bad taste – very bad taste and shows nothing of the real suffering of Aids victims or the victims of mass murderers.

      One final point; I think it is important to not show too many of these type of ads though because people can become ‘immune’ to images of suffering – and the shock value gets lost.

      • 7 patti in cape coral
        September 10, 2009 at 14:30

        I think it would have been more effective and to the point to show the grim reaper instead of Hitler.

  5. 8 Dave
    September 10, 2009 at 07:32

    Its all a matter of perception. One persons art is another’s trash. However if it manages to save some lives then it has achived its goal. There will always be some one who finds some ad, video or cartoon offensive no matter what the subject matter.

  6. September 10, 2009 at 10:33

    I don’t know about you guys, but I am shocked out.

  7. 10 Dennis Junior
    September 10, 2009 at 11:47

    I am in complete agreement with PDXMIKE comments @ 1033 on 10 September; I am completely shocked out….

    (i will have further to say later)

    =Dennis Junior=

  8. 11 Nigel
    September 10, 2009 at 11:58

    Certainly sells more newspapers.

  9. 12 patti in cape coral
    September 10, 2009 at 12:51

    I think shock has value, but it is easy to overuse. That David Kirby picture is the stuff of nightmares, he is so emaciated and almost lifeless, he looks like a mannequin. I’m still easy to shock, though.

  10. 13 patti in cape coral
    September 10, 2009 at 14:03

    Oh my, I just watched the don’t text and drive video, the hair stood up on my arms. That is one awful video, and probably effective, I think, although in my case it was preaching to the choir.

  11. 14 Jennifer
    September 10, 2009 at 14:40

    Re: Does shock still have value

    I think so, however I think that it only means that to have an impact you have to keep going further and further. In the process, you do loose value because people become accustomed to seeing these type of things.

    Regarding the Cycle of abuse advertisement I find nothing “shocking” about it. It’s real; sad but real. I didn’t watch the Hitler ad but read the article which had a photo. How about just laying out the facts about AIDS. Isn’t AIDS scary by itself? I don’t see a connection between Hitler and Aids and trying to make one is just silly in my opinion.

  12. 15 Tyshawn Taylor
    September 10, 2009 at 15:25

    As an American, I’ve been subjected to many advertisements that use shock value to get a message across. We are an image based society so you would think that visuals would thrust us to act for a cause faster than any. However, I found that it only does one thing… Desensitize us!. Whether it be to violence, damaging ideals, gore, death, etc… If we continue to have a working mind, the facts about aids or any epidemic, for that matter, will be shocking enough; and we wouldn’t have to result to rehashing of violent criminals, ridiculous metaphors, or gory sequences. We could accomplish the same goal of raising awareness, by interviewing those that were and still are directly affected by the problem discussed. Hearing real life stories paints a picture of immediacy and realism. It should play to our human and reasonable side, morality; not our frightful and imaginative side. This is reality, lets treat it as such.

    Tyshawn Taylor

  13. 16 María, Buenos Aires
    September 10, 2009 at 15:59

    Shock is a powerful device to call the attention of a uninterested popultaion, stunned by the media. Those realistic images never leave your mind, they hunt you until you become aware of the abutting danger.
    I work in the media, and I think that a responsible and relevant message justifies the use of impact. People need to be dis-alienated.

  14. 17 vijay pillai
    September 11, 2009 at 09:11

    A journalist lost his job because he published a hoax photo of someone being abused during a war elsewhere to shock the nation .People have imagination.I stopped smoking few cigatette a day more than 25 years ago when i learned about the harmfull effect of smoking not in a shocking way but by longer term thinking of cancer in 2 to 3 decades time if i failed to stop smoking..

  15. 18 Dennis Junior
    September 12, 2009 at 23:28

    But can it still have the same impact, or have we become desensitised?

    I think that we have become desensitised to these types of shock related situations…

    =Dennis Junior=

  16. September 29, 2009 at 16:57

    MediaCurves.com conducted a study on 318 males and females who viewed several recent “shock ads” on breast and lung cancer awareness. Results found that the majority of male viewers (53%) indicated that shock ads are extremely effective, compared to 42% of females who reported that shock ads are extremely effective. The majority of male viewers (66%) reported they wanted to see more “shock ads” on the air, while less than half of female viewers (49%) wanted to see more shock ads. More in depth results can be seen at:

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