June 3, 2013— -- If recent PSAs are anything to go by, the best way to deter people from abusing drugs and alcohol is by making sure they're too busy crying in the fetal position.
In Spain, a new anti-binge drinking campaign features footage of people vomiting on loved ones to drive home the message that, every time you get drunk, "you push away the things that matter most to you." Sometimes, you also come home with various tiny paper umbrellas and mysterious phone numbers. Lose some / win some.
If you're the kind of person who vomits after watching other people do so, you might want to avoid this video forever.
Of course, the question remains as to whether shock value has any real, you know. Value.
Earlier this year, NPR's All Things Considered introduced listeners to the concept of the "information gap" -- that chasm between the information and images offered by PSAs (like, say, that
The Meth Project, spearheaded in Montana back in 2005, has used an "edge" to educate young people about the real impact -- and look -- of meth use. The campaign tapped well-known filmmakers like director Darren Aronofsky, who memorably confirmed suspicions that heroin, coke and diet pills tend to mess a person up. The spot offered a departure from the earnest and awkward PSAs of the 90s and early aughts by presenting graphic, disturbing examples of how meth use not only ravages users physically, but emotionally as well. But did they work?
An article published in the Journal of Marketing Research in March 2012 (your daily reading and mine, I assume) titled "How Disgust Enhances the Effectiveness of Fear Appeals" (or, alternately, "Why Naked Lunch Is My Anti-Drug,") presents a series of studies that demonstrate how "adding disgust to a fear appeal appreciably enhances message persuasion and compliance beyond that of appeals that elicit only fear." That disgust stays with us, particularly if we already harbor a fear of, say, losing control or disappointing our loved ones or any other myriad risks associated with abusing alcohol.
Of course, there are media studies that suggest response to shock in ads or PSAs can vary among different groups (like, say, men and women) and some experts maintain that ads need more than memorable images to make an impact, they also have to include clear-cut instructions or be part of a larger, comprehensive campaign.
So, that slimy, sticky feeling you get deep in the pit of your belly when you're watching these Spanish ads? More often than not, that's good for you. It's keeping you safe, and it'll stick with you when you're about to make a bad decision.