Shock-vertising: Get The Balance Right

The government’s latest skirmish in the battle to rid our Sceptred Isle of lung cancer is a TV ad featuring a cigarette that develops tumours as it is smoked. You might have been lucky enough to see it over the holiday, moments after finishing a large celebratory meal.

But let’s hope not.

Guardian writer Arwa Mahdawi has no such worries, being completely impervious to vile visuals. According to Mahdawi, ‘shock-vertising’, (that is, the use of offensive images and/or statements to convey a message) is effectively redundant, because people are so desensitised by the violent material that is freely available on the internet and in mainstream movies.

That might be true, if everyone used the internet to trawl the depths of 4Chan and Reddit for execution videos of Middle Eastern dictators. But we don’t. Contrary to popular belief, some people actively avoid those things, as well as the work of Eli Roth and James Wan, preferring instead to watch movies that challenge and hone our senses vs. grinding away on them until they’re smooth and we’re passive.

I found the advert unpleasant, but honestly? An article attempting to normalise rising levels of desensitisation, and criticising a government for not taking it into consideration when making policy decisions shocked me more.

If Arwa Mahdawi was really”grossly underwhelmed” by the campaign, perhaps she should look at her own viewing habits  before making ill-informed and sweeping statements in a national newspaper.

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