Over the last couple of years, Breaking The Brand has fielded many questions about our adverts using negative messaging and emotions. Since the launch of our campaigns we have had people in the rhino conservation space tell us what we do is ‘too hard hitting’, ‘racist’ and ‘would offend our donors’. I mentioned more about this in our Second Year Report: http://breakingthebrand.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Breaking-The-Brand-Project-Second-Annual-Report.pdf
Similarly, there is a belief in many circles that all messages should be positive, don’t upset people, people only learn and change when they are positively engaged. This mindset is pervasive; it is also naïve and just plain wrong. If this were true, then from a media perspective why don’t anti-smoking adverts show happy people playing with their children and saying “I have much more energy to play with my kids because I don’t smoke” or road safety adverts with drivers saying “Home again safe and sound because I don’t drink and drive”?
Do you think such adverts would reduce the smoking rate or the incidences of drinking and driving? Do you think such adverts would have worked? No, me neither. The reality is, some people are motivated into changing their behaviour for positive reasons, but many need to feel discomfort to trigger them into action to do something different. This is used in the media to great effect. I write more about this in Discomfort Triggers Behaviour Change.
Over the last 18 months, I have spoken to several people in the anti-tobacco, road safety and work safety space. I believe that there is a wealth of empirical evidence to show that ‘negative’ campaigns will trigger behaviour change, if employed for the right audiences. In fact, one of the world’s leading researchers in the anti-smoking field stated “Negative ads do the grunt work of stopping smoking, positive ads keep our donors happy”.
So, I ask you to spent 30 minutes watching some adverts and see what you think. Make a note of the time line:
The Victorian Transport Accident Commission first created public service adverts to deal with the rising road toll in 1989. In that year the lives lost on Victorian roads totaled 776.
|20 years on, a compilation of these adverts was used in their Christmas campaign to help keep the road toll down over the holidays. Title: Everybody Hurts|