We are exposed to over 3,000 marketing messages while we conduct our daily business. When you walk into any retail store in the United States, your eyes are inundated with bright colors, loud sounds, repetitive catch phrases, and many other stimuli through videos, print advertisements and cardboard cutouts. Because of the overwhelming number of advertisements, how do we choose which advertisements to pay attention to? And more importantly, because of the excess information constantly bombarding our computer screens, smart phones, televisions, billboards, and radio stations, have we become immune to advertising? Fortunately for advertisers, the answer is still “no.” However, this increase in advertising stimuli has caused advertisers to realize that attention-getting ads may become more important in the coming years.
Fear appeal has been used for years to influence viewers to partake in a particular action, or to avoid an action. However, this form of advertising is generally used to keep teens from driving while intoxicated, or to promote a political candidate by showing how things may go with an opposing candidate. However, companies are using a newer form of advertising that focuses on the surreal and creepy.
Many adults remember running home with a giant sack of candy on Halloween, bursting through the door, and pouring the candy on the nearest table to begin the delicious candy separation process. One candy that is commonly handed out on Halloween is the sour Lemonhead. However, thanks to Lemonhead’s new mascot, the scares do not stop when trick-or-treating comes to an end. The new mascot looks like something out of a horror film from the eighties, or something out of a surreal dream that could turn even the most sleep deprived person into an insomniac. So why would Ferrara Candy Co., producers of the Lemonhead brand, choose to use a creepy mascot when trying to sell a popular candy product? Other candy companies have successful catch phrases like Mars, Inc.’s famous “Taste the Rainbow” for Skittles and “Melt in your mouth, not in your hand” for M&Ms. In order to compete against more popular brands, Ferrara Candy Co. needed to find a way to penetrate through thousands of marketing messages targeted at children every day. This newer trend, commonly called Ewwvertising, Frightvertising, or Scarevertising, is becoming more and more popular as companies realize just how hard it has become to catch the attention of target consumers.
Ferrara still currently uses an older version of their mascot on their candy packaging, which may be due to the fact that their primary consumers are children and they want children to tear open the package and eat the candies, instead of tossing the package into a fire with the intent of destroying the mascot and its eerie glare. However, this mascot may prove successful because of its ability to gain buzz from major news and blogging websites, which may entice readers to crave the sour lemon-flavored candy balls once again. What remains unknown is how this new generation of children will react to citrus fruit, after being exposed to the new mascot.
Ferrara Candy Co. is not the only company using this strategy. Many firms are using this form of advertising to gain a larger audience, even when the product has no relation to the macabre.
Another company using this technique is Little Baby’s Ice Cream, which has created a commercial with an eerie ice cream monster staring into the camera while eating itself. This short commercial is disturbing to watch because the mascot’s eyes seem fixed on the viewer. However, the ad did gain the attention of viewers around the world (with 6.5 million views on YouTube). When viewers of the advertisement walk down the streets of Philadelphia, they will be more likely to spot the ice cream store, which may be the company’s intent with the commercial in the first place.
AutoWay, a Japanese tire company, decided to use the suspense method to gain attention from viewers. Their short commercial is from the dashboard view of a small car, which is driving through a blizzard on a dark night. The car stops when a figure can be seen standing in the road motionless. The character then rushes forward instantly and reveals its freaky face which looks like a young ghostly girl. The car then reverses back as quickly as possible while the screen changes black. The camera then zooms in on the girl, who holds a sign with the name of the tire company. This video received almost 9 million views world-wide. AutoWay may have been using this video to show how good their tires are in a quick situation, however, the ghostly figure overshadows any message.
Will this form of advertising be sustainable in the future? It is too soon to tell. However, audiences become annoyed and frustrated very easily with repetition, which means that companies using this form of advertising may need to constantly change their methods, or increase the intensity of surreal, creepy, or downright frightening marketing messages.