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Gross Ads Motivate Consumers

  • USA Today, Tuesday, February 28, 2012 10:25 AM

A TV spot from the New York City Department of Health featured images of a soft drink turning into fat as a guy gulps it down. Department officials say sugar-rich beverage consumption dropped 12% after the campaign. A Febreze TV spot shows blindfolded volunteers sitting in an ultra-filthy room — but fooled into thinking that they smell something pleasant. A commercial for Colgate Total toothpaste shows a mouthful of germs.

Do they work? A five-year study by Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business says yes. Again and again, the study found, advertisements that try to simply "scare" consumers into actions — such as buying protective sunscreens or avoiding dangerous drugs — are far less effective than ads that also "disgust" consumers into taking the action. The best way to elicit disgust: Display totally gross images.




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