Shock advertising is a type of advertising generally regarded as one that 'delibertaly' startles and offends its audience (Gustafson & Yssel, 1994; Venkat & Abi-Hanna, 1995), through violating norms or social values and personal ideals (brandcameo:online). Shock advertising is principally desgined to break through the advertising 'clutter' and create 'buzz'. Offense is elicited through the process of norm violation, encompassing transgession of law and custom (e.g. indecent sexual reference, obscenity), breaches of a moral social code (e.g. profanity, vulgarity), or things that otrage the or physical senses (e.g. gratutious violence, disgusting images).
It is clear that some advertising purposly breaches social norms with the intent to shock its consumer. Widely known examples include the advertising campaigns produced by the brand Benetton. The italian clothier is seen by many as the master of the shock technique. On many occasions over the last 20 years the brand has produced a campaign to remind us that nothing is scared to the media.
Benetton's advertising philosophy is based on Luciano Benetton's belief that ' communication should not be commissioned from outside the company, but conceived from within it's heart'. The brands controverisal path began in 1986. The campaign depicted below was an image of 'happy groups of multiracial kids replaced by couples' representing an alternative interpretation to difference.
Many Benetton adverts from this period depicted issues that were seen as taboo, the brand then put these images in the main stream media to protray a social message, challenge norms and create conroversy. Consequently it became clear to the brand that dealing with the issue of differnce within the process of advertising was not an easy task. The image below represents religious and political conflict (Palistian and Israeli). The adverts dennotes two males dressed in sterotypical religious clothing from each of the countries. The two figures are standing in close proximity to each other with their hands around a globe connoting unity, a term rarely used to describe the two nations that notoriasly do not get on. Benetton sort to portray a concept of bringing together different races through the idea of tolerance, peace and respect for diversity within its adverts.