Thursday 22 February 2018

Julia Molony: 'Shockvertising' – can you spare us the gory details?

Given an anxiety epidemic, it might be time to tone down ad campaign terror

Julia Molony

WHEN I was a small child learning the ways of the world, my dad had a shock and awe approach to teaching vital life lessons. I suppose a lot of parents do it to get their kids attention. But in my household it was aversion techniques as imagined by Martin Scorsese. An instruction about, say, crossing the road would be hammered home by an invocation of the full horror of the consequences of making a mistake – we'd be told a vividly nightmarish description of a collision between car and pedestrian, no detail spared, including full sound effects, panoramic view and ensuing emotional fallout. In this way, my sister and I were cheerfully terrorised into good traffic awareness.

We grew up to be sensible adults, if a little on the jumpy side. I can understand the logic and would probably be likely to browbeat my own children, if I had them, into safe practices with similarly dire warnings. Even if these days I do identify a bit too much with the Bluth family in Arrested Development.

Their (fictional) father, George Bluth, is clearly of the same mind of my own, if a bit more ambitious. He went a step further in developing a modus operandi for teaching his kids a lesson. When they made a false move, he'd stage a complete accident or disaster for them to walk into. Only when they were fully terrified into obedience and covered in fake blood did he feel his parental duty was done.

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