Public service announcements tend to lean into shock tactics to bring to life their message. As a result, consumers become desensitised to the “tried and true” shock approaches and don’t take a public service announcement seriously. Worse, they ignore the messages entirely.
Big culprits of shock messaging are the “drink responsibly” commercials. As written in a previous blog post (see here) most public service organisations and Brands that develop drink aware work try to scare you. However, the result is not awareness, rather it is deafness because people don’t want to see horrible accidents or utterly embarrassing scenarios. They are, well, buzz kills. For this reason I really find the “Drink Aware” work from Australia brilliant. It respects the viewer and uses design beauty, humour and storytelling to have people pay attention. The result is a brilliant public service announcement. Have a look.
If you are going to use scare tactics, then the level of fear has to be extremely high. A “Stay In School” public service announcement, also from Australia, shows us how its done. It is so over-the-top that it somewhat delegitimises the message (I mean even Alice Cooper would have been grossed out by this). However, the setting, storytelling and surprise make it impossible not to be startled into awareness. The viewcount is a testament to this. Have a look.