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Sex sells, and I ain’t buying


 

The Quebec government have always taken a wholeheartedly literal approach to warning its people of the dangers of speed, sex and booze. The above advert is part of its newest campaign to warn Randy Young Things of the perils of chlamydia–which, according to smart people, is on the rise in Quebec as it is everywhere else in North America.

I’ve never been convinced of the effectiveness of these types of ads. After all, it wasn’t a typically over-the-top sensibility campaign (like this one) that caused a decrease in the number of road deaths in Quebec recently. It was increased police surveillance and, in the last year, the introduction of photo radar. The lesson, in Quebec as elsewhere, is not to hit people in the eyes, but their wallets.

I find these types of ads more interesting sociologically. Can you see these types of ads on billboards in, say, Calgary or St. John, or anywhere else beyond these borders? (Ok, mebbe Toronto…) I think I know the answer, but I’m asking anyway.


 
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Sex sells, and I ain’t buying

  1. The "reasoning via shock" is not new to the ad world, and Ontario did it with a mumps campaign not too long ago.

    The idea is that if people think about it, they will make a better choice than if they don't – so the goal is to find an image that is memorable and effective (as with any advertising) but also that takes the message to the next level: behaviour change. And among young people, while money is still a big motivator, so is not being a social outcast.

    Shock advertising also finds its place in driving safety videos, a la that British PSA.

  2. "Can you see these types of ads on billboards in, say, Calgary or St. John, or anywhere else beyond these borders?"

    I don't think so.

  3. Quebec governments seem to love these types of ads. I remember seeing a particularly shocking one at the side of the road in Gatineau, which featured a horribly burned person. Activists say that these shocking images are needed to get people's attention in the media-saturated environment, but the problem with that logic is that you remember the shocking image (burned person, naughty bits, etc.) but the message (workplace safety, sexual safety, etc.) is not nearly as memorable.

    Although I think the gold standard for these ads s that MADD ad where the beer glasses keep piling up in front of the windshield until the car crashes. Got the message across in a way that intertwined the visuals with the message.

    • That MADD ad was actually done in Singapore or Malayasia (I think) in the early 90s. It won a great gong at the Cannes ad fest back then. MADD Canada just picked it up. Good ad, but not Canadian.

  4. I vaguely remember a government ad on workplace safety that featured a worker impaled by several metal bars. It might have been a federal or Quebec ad; does anybody remember it?

  5. Maybe Vancouver?

    Are these ads running everywhere in the province? Like, Montreal and Quebec City sure, but also Shawinigan and Trois-Pistoles?

  6. St. John's or Saint John.

    Pick one. ;)

  7. I've never been convinced of the effectiveness of these types of ads. After all, it wasn't a typically over-the-top sensibility campaign (like this one) that caused a decrease in the number of road deaths in Quebec recently. It was increased police surveillance and, in the last year, the introduction of photo radar. The lesson, in Quebec as elsewhere, is not to hit people in the eyes, but their wallets. (Links removed)

    I agree. I am not sure these billboards do much of anything (beyond blow our tax dollars in order to fill advertising space of subway walls and bus sides that no one else thought would be a good place to advertise instead).

    But if you are gonna blow tax dollars to justify "societal awareness" cred at the next deputy minister's meeting, you may as well grab attention. Look, it got you to show the posters and talk about it. So it has not failed as an attention-seeking campaign.

    • That said, IIRC the ever-more-graphic warning images on cigarette packages have, were we not informed by researchers, had an influence. Was it not the drooping limp cigarette (to portray the risks of impotence) that freaked out young males pretty effectively?

      I realize a warning label on a pack of smokes is much more targeted to an intended audience than these PSA boards. But still.

  8. you're totally wrong on this Martin. We need to hit them where they live not some ideal world where everyone behaves as if they live in Leave it to Beaver world.

    Allow me to elucidate.

    Back eons ago when I was working at the McGill Daily, the radicals decided that an ad that encouraged sense in the age of Aids was deemed too hetero or sexist because it portrayed the very real phenomena of men going to clubs to pick up women for sex – shocking I know (late 80's).

    Well so they decided that this group of people – night-clubbers deserved no respect and in fact by their actions said that it was okay for "pig-boys" and "pig-girls" to die because the ad targeting them was not politically correct.

    Martin, mon ami pensez-vous bien encore, svp.

  9. Actually, when I lived in Ireland they had ads like this. In fact, they were worse. There was one with a toddler in a yard surrounded by large green hedges, and out of the blue a car crashes through a hedge and lands on top of the toddler as the toddler's father watches. Another one showed an upside down car with dying teenagers inside, blood dripping from them, and their eyes lifeless except for one.
    I really, really disliked those ads, but I think they had absolutely no influence on my driving or that of anyone else.

    On the same topic, I dislike those ads on Quebec highways that say "ralentissez", or they say that the highways are not a race track. They all make the insinuation that you are speeding and racing. Instead of saying "don't speed", they say "slow down", insinuating that you must be speeding and out of control. I really dislike that too. Too much nanny-state. Quebec has far too much nanny-state coming from the government.

  10. Sometimes, it takes the shock to get the first message out. My folks grew up not worrying about a few drinks before the drive home. Nobody wore seatbelts, smoking was cool and if the guy next door slapped his wife now and then, it was nobody's business.

    30 years of slow attitude shifts, and presenting the new reality to a new generation of two means a lot less drunk morons on the road, and a society more likely to call the cops when they hear abuse. That all took time, and a lot of advertising.

    • In the case of drinking and driving, it was the harsher laws that helped. Laws are inherently educative.

      • No argument there, the laws played a big part. But the laws themselves didn't change social attitudes, that was a joint venture between governments, law enforcement and outside agencies repeating the message, often using shock. My favourite was the OPP tactic of dropping a smashed up car on the playground. Don't drink and drive, kids, or this could be your mom.

        Nasty, but it made an impression.

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