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Insight & Analysis - May 31, 2021

Shocking vs Surprising Ads: Which is Better?

One great way to get people to engage with your ad is to instil the element of surprise or like we’ve seen in some advertisements, shock. We live in a fast-paced world where people easily get bored with the content, and ads like any other form of media messaging are continuously innovating to keep viewers engaged.  While surprising or shocking ads can both attract the attention of the viewer, they do not achieve the same end result.  

Harvard School Professor, Thales Teixeira finds that ads that surprising viewers are great for gaining attention and engagement. He refers to this kind of ads as “pure” humour and they make up for  90% of viral ads. Take the Evian advertisement featuring babies performing stunts on roller skates like adults for example. 

On the other hand, shocking ads inhibits digital sharing, because according to Teixeira, people share digital content because they are trying to make a social statement about their personality. So it’s more about the person sharing the message than the recipient. Thus, sharing a shocking ad will very much draw attention, but it won’t be getting a lot of shares. 

Teixeria gives an example with the Bud Light clothing drive commercial, which features people in the office taking off their clothes to donate, and you can actually see scenes of nudity blocked by black squares. People are more likely to watch this kind of ad and are less likely to share it because it’s shocking. 

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