Sarah McLachlan and Fearful Persuasion

Persuasion used in advertising is no secret. At least not to those who pay attention. Persuasion theories explains how fear is a big tool used to grab the attention of viewers when the matter can directly affect them or someone they love. However, if the information is too threatening or intense, the viewer is likely to block it out in denial.

This makes me think of all the anti-smoking commercials that show extreme cases of usage, such as the boy high on marijuana who accidentally shoots himself. From a parent’s perspective, watching a commercial that shows that your kid will die if they find drugs is too extreme a fact to face. It goes past persuasion and straight to denial.

Like how many times have you been watching tv and heard the horrible Sarah Mclachlan song they play with the animal cruelty commercials, only to rush to the controller to change the channel. Shock appeal does NOT always work.

Companies new to the storytelling business of advertising need to be aware that while fear is a great tool to grab the attention of the viewer, it needs to be used cautiously.  Asking for a call to advocacy can include some fearful warnings if the goal isn’t reached, but showing an over exaggerated horrific scene will generally turn your viewers the other way to change the channel.


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