Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Fear is a pretty powerful emotion and when confronted with fear humans seem to be wired to recoil first and ask questions second.

As a result, fear can be pretty easily sparked in such a way that is instinctive and not subject to rationality.

In fact, many phobias are firmly rooted in irrational fear - monsters and clowns for example - while other fears are rooted in more automatic areas of associated memory - fear is a pretty efficient survival tool, learning to look both ways before crossing the road it's a pretty vital early skill to learn.

Emotional manifestations of fear include things like apprehension, terror, dread and panic.

In advertising a 'fear appeal' is a type of psychoactive trigger that is often used to evoke an emotional response in the participant regarding the effect of other automatic behaviours.

This spot from Finland clearly plays to that, showing how children are affected by parents drinking habits.

A few people have pinged me this with a footnote around 'there you go, using emotions in shaping behaviour'.

But exactly how much fear induces behaviour change or a simply a looking-the-other-way is another question. I don't know.

Compare the Finnish spot to this one about teen smoking in Texas, which uses the social norms nudge '8 out of 10 Texas teens don't smoke' and a large dose of teen humour to tackle the problem.

The problems are somewhat different but I have still a wee hunch that addressing what is a social norm (parents bad drinking habits in the presence of children) with a 'fear appeal', while ultimately more effective than an information or gawd-help-us 'educational' appeal, would be more effective still, in the long game, by promoting a new social norm.

'Most parents with under-5's say one is enough', for example.

That said, it's a pretty powerful spot.

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