Home » E-Learning » How shocking must an image be to have an effect? Advertisers only do it because it works.

How shocking must an image be to have an effect? Advertisers only do it because it works.

Fig. 1. End of Year 2012 Anti-smoking TV commercial and campaign

If you find the current anti-smoking ads powerful, in which a cigarette grows a life-like tumour as it is smoked, then imagine what the word ‘disembowel’ conjures up?

I do not suggest that you Google the word as I did wanting to correct my spelling ‘disembowl’ – which, if defined the way I spell it might mean nothing more challenging that taking a bowl out of a cupboard, or away from a child who is playing with their breakfast i.e. to dis-embowl, as you might disembark from a ship.

I deliberately offer neither a link, nor an image.

It shocked me that even I could so naively stumble upon a picture gallery of such horrific proportions courtesy of the word ‘disembowel’ that includes CCTV footage of road accidents as well as the aftermath of murders, killings and war zone collateral damage. I am now forever damaged. My mind will run amok with these pictures forever – to scrub them out of my mind will require cognitive behaviour therapy and hypnosis.

If I ever need to put my teenage children off the idea of riding on a motorbike, or getting a motorbike of their own I know what Google search will will put them off, potentially keep them off a pedal bike too. I’ve now seen what happens when a truck hits a stationary motorbike that is waiting to take, in this instance, a left turn off a main road. The two words ‘road kill’ sum it up.

I believe in the power of images – for advertising and for learning purposes.

I believe that the more genuine the image, however contrived and constructed, in its appropriate context – the more memorable the facts, events and circumstances are as a force to inform or educate. I believe also that where this image is animated, live or as live video, with both visual and auditory clues, the more powerful it becomes.

The police don’t show reconstructions of traffic accidents to drunk or reckless drivers – they show them the real thing.

I discussed the above  with my teenage son in the best possible place to hold a 14 year old’s attention – driving home.

He was open enough about stuff he will have seen online – at least as far as YouTube out takes of tricks gone wrong on motorbikes that have resulted in injury. I can’t watch this kind of thing on TV if I know someone is likely to have been hurt – I broke my leg very badly in one of these stupid pranks age 13 so I know the silliness has consequences.

We talked about how much his generation are exposed to that makes his parents look naive.

For the most part I believe they  form a sensible opinions because their experiences and what they come across is ‘socialised’ and in a supportive context – they talk to their friends, their friends siblings dip in and yes, words of wisdom and ignorance from the rest of us is chucked into the mix. A middle and reasonable point of view is, I hope, developed.

Will he ever get on a motorbike? I hope not. Will he even try a cigarette? Probably not. Will he makes mistakes? Yes, just so long as it isn’t in a car on a busy road.

We still have very elderly relatives who know what it is like to face death for days and weeks on end (Warsaw Uprising, POW, concentration camp internees on release or as moved … ) and my own grandfather, long gone, who survived as a witness to 20 months of first hand experience in the trenches of the Western Front as a machine gunner (April 1916 to December 1917) – he spared me the detail when I sat on his knee as a six year old, but as a 30 year old recording his memoir he was happy to elaborate –  the memory vivid enough for him to break down in tears 75 years after the event – including a mate who was disemboweled and took more than a few hours to die of his wounds in a dug out on the edge of the Passcendaele front in later October 1917.

The danger is always the person who is not ‘socialised’ in the community and so their views can be tempered by advice …

Or if that person’s views are going way out of line they are somehow brought to the attention of social services or some such before they find weapons and go out to play not-so-merry havoc.


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