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Shock Tactics: with great fearlessness comes great responsibility

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    Shock Tactics: with great fearlessness comes great responsibility With great fearlessness comes great responsibility

    Shock Tactics in Advertising: with great fearlessness comes great responsibility

    By Phenya, Nolusindiso | November 23, 2016

    Shock Tactics in Advertising: with great fearlessness comes great responsibility

    An initiative between Grey Africa, the NSPCA, and ProVantage, designed to create awareness about the rise of dogfighting in South Africa, spread like wildfire across social and traditional media channels thanks to its controversial nature.

    It kicked off with a mobile billboard advertising a dogfight between “Thor” and “Nitro,” with the ominous promise “There can only be one winner.”   The public reaction was immediate and voluble.  People were outraged.  The website and the phone line advertised on the billboard were inundated with complaints – expressed in no uncertain terms.  We expected nothing less.  We carefully monitored the reaction and when it reached its peak we revealed our full message. The mobile billboard went out again, this time telling everyone that the dogfight was a fake – but that real dogfights just like it happen all the time, in the most outwardly respectable neighbourhoods.  At the same time the NSCPA put out a press release announcing that they were behind the stunt and appealing to people to turn their outrage into action and join the fight against dogfighting. The conversation continued to rage, with some people feeling we had employed underhanded tactics in getting our message across, and many thousands more enthusiastically getting behind the campaign.    In an independent Twitter Poll, 64% of respondents rated the campaign “So clever.”

    With zero media spend, our website received thousands of visits, from people in 110 countries.  In less than 24 hours the SPCA’s story was covered (for free) by The Citizen, the SABC, eNCA, News24, Jacaranda News, 702, the Sandton Chronicle, MixFM, 2OceansVibe, and Algoa FM.  The story appeared across two pages of the Sunday Times. That exposure alone would usually have cost around R250 000.  Three days after launch, the NSPCA had received R35 000 in donations, through the SMS and Snapscan channels specifically set up for the purpose.  They had also received a number of tip-offs from members of the public who had read our message and wanted to report suspicious activity in their neighbourhoods.      

    Do shock tactics like these work? In this case, yes.  We had one simple, shocking fact to communicate, and a solid PR plan to back it up.  We monitored the conversation constantly so that we could reveal our full message at just the right time.  We had our “reveal” artwork and messaging ready to go before we even launched the campaign, knowing that our reveal would require split-second timing. We spent months planning the campaign, thinking through all possible outcomes, and making sure that ProVantage, who partnered with us, were fully aware of the possible risks.  We went as far as to make sure we were following the driver of the mobile billboard to ensure his safety.

    One of our guiding cultural principles at Grey is Fearlessness. We believe that cutting through the clutter requires the courage to do things differently, to be bold, to take risks. Fearlessness works: in three hours, this campaign achieved more than all previous efforts by the NSPCA to raise awareness of dogfighting. Unsolicited, the Pitbull Federation of South Africa commended the campaign, saying it had been more successful than any of the Federation’s attempts to communicate the same message. Fearlessness, however, is not to be confused with recklessness. We believe shock tactics need to be used sparingly, with a serious amount of forethought and pre-planning. And it’s essential to have a strong agency-client relationship, characterised by trust and mutual respect.  We are privileged to have a Fearless client partner like the NSPCA.

    The NSPCA have rescued four dogs and have received 36 tip offs since the beginning of the campaign.

    Join the fight against dogfighting:

    Contact the NSPCA:

    Email: nspca@nspca.co.za

    Phone: 011 907 3590

    Website: www.nspca.co.za

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