Are you calling me stupid or ugly? Can Fear Drive An Advertising Response?

There’s plenty of fear in today’s society. Fear of terrorist, losing face, losing your hair. Fear of smelling bad, losing your job, losing the plot.

For the most part fear saps us of our energy, leaves us anxious and hesitant. At its extreme it can give us an adrenalin rush for fight or flight.

It is rarely a very good motivator for small things.

Fear of a bear can make you run… I’m less convinced the fear of looking unattractive at a bus stop would get you moving.

Does it depend on the consequence?
So how serious do the consequences have to be to make fear an effective motivator for action? On TV today we’re told to stop smoking, we’re told not to drink too much and we’re told they’ll track us down and punish us if we don’t pay our TV license. Do the dire consequences galvanize us into action?

Does fear in advertising motivate you?
I came across the following two ads from Switzerland and Brazil. One tells me if I don’t use nasal spray, I’ll look stupid. The other suggests if I don’t drink diet soda my boyfriend will dump me for the fit competition waiting on the sidelines.

In both cases they tried to use humour to package these message and they did make me laugh, just because the premise is so odd.

Are your customers the people in your ads?
If you did buy these products, would you be admitting that you relate to the unfit or sniffling characters in the ads?

I’d be interested to know if you find these ads funny and whether you think the fear factor is a good motivator to buy their products.

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Let us know what you think in the comment box below.

Otrivin Nasal Spray Saatchi & Saatchi Switzerland
Sprite Zero Del Campo Saatchi & Saatchi Buenos Aires


  1. I found both adds hilarious. While adds like these which exaggerate the human condition do make us laugh, at core they strike at our insecurities and as such are useful reminders that we need to stay in charge of ourselves.
    I agree that fear isn’t a good motivator for the small things. I’d love to think that it wasn’t for the big things too, that what motivates us daily are ideals and goals way above something as atavistic as fear! Unfortunately I have had terror in my heart so many times while preparing for presentations to know how powerful a factor fear is.
    Was great to think about this and to think about keeping fear in it’s place!! Thanks.

    1. Hi Mel, Thanks for writing and I’m delighted you found the ads funny. I love your observaton that we should keep the things that terrorize us in perspective. Wish I could apply that to trying on bathing suits but nothing can minimize that fear. Thanks for your comment.

  2. I found the Otrivin ad offensive because I suffer from nasal congestion and breathing from the mouth is a real issue that I have to deal with everyday. I don’t think the ad is funny because the it over-exaggerated the medical condition and effectively given people like me a “dumb” label. While the ad has made me more aware of how I might look if I breathe heavily through my mouth, it has definitely convinced me not to buy Otrivin, in case I get caught by my classmates, who might just laugh at me and say,”so, you’re one of those dumb people in the ad!” There are other nasal decongestants in the market that don’t call me names.

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