As America still buzzes about Miley Cyrus’s “shocking” on-screen behavior, there were a couple of even more disturbing images put upon us this week, each designed to shock us into taking some kind of action. But the images within these “public service” campaigns are just plain creepy–and also quite effective.
According to TheHill.com, a $750,000 campaign funded by Generation Opportunity, a group with ties to the wealthy and conservative Koch brothers, “is intended to discourage college students from signing up for the new healthcare exchanges.” One 60-second video ad, “The Exam,” features a very creepy Uncle Sam character preparing to give a young woman a gynecological examination. It makes the “Obamacare wants to take control of your health” argument in a sexual and ugly way, using scare tactics and distortions to make its point. And it’s getting plenty of attention.
The well-known animal rights group PETA is no stranger to controversial messages. Its infamous “The Holocaust on your plate” campaign was quickly pulled when Jewish groups screamed about comparing killing animals for food to the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. There have been many over-the-top ads from PETA including its newest, featuring a chained baby and captioned, “Kids don’t belong in chains. Dogs don’t either.” The message is correct but the image it uses is very shocking–and it gets us to notice.
Disturbing messages are exactly what these organizations are going for. They grab our attention and then we (after those in the media bring them to our screens) shake our heads and talk about how awful they are.
I deeply dislike these kinds of negative campaigns and believe there’s no place for them. They serve to make these groups look extremist which I believe ultimately hurts their longer-term missions. But in a nation of free speech, they are permissible messages whether we like to see them or not. Ultimately, I have to reluctantly tip my hat to these organizations for successfully pulling off what they set out to do — they got us to notice. Your thoughts?