Electric Shock

5 May

Shock the people and they will listen. Isn’t that how it is in every situation? I believe it is. The moment people are shocked, the moment people turn their attention to the situation. This is true for the latest Vanity Fair scandal and Kate Moss’ new lingerie advertisements. 

Pictures of Miley Cyrus, taken by the famed Annie Liebovitz, raised so many moral questions and sparked so much interest. All of the energy has brought the attention to Vanity Fair magazine. It’s true, bad press really is good press.

The Cut, New York Magazine’s fashion blog, interviewed former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown. She comments,  “I just thought, ‘There Annie [Liebovitz] goes again! Driving up sales!'” she said. “I saw her here tonight and I congratulated her. I said, ‘Great job. Now just put one of those out every quarter.’ It’s terrific for newsstand and it gets Si [Newhouse] off your back.”

Another celebrity perfect for the use of shock value is Kate Moss. The model is always all popular in the blogosphere, including PerezHilton.com and The Cut. Her name alone is tied to numerous scandals and now she is in the midst of another “haute” topic. The Cut describes that the new Agent Provocateur bridal ad campaign features Moss in controversial circumstances where she, the bride, is shot in a “red underwear holding slices of wedding cake looking like she’d just trampled a pair of popes.”

Agent Provocateur’s co-founder Joe Corre “wanted to express his views on marriage and the Vatican: ‘For me, the idea of marriage, of two people committing to one another, is incredibly beautiful. But at a certain point you hand over the control of that to a different organisation, to something that is disconnected, whether it’s the Church or, if it’s a civil wedding, the Government. I think perhaps people should question that because what if the authority concerned is corrupt and its intentions are not as pure as the ones you had in the first place?'”

Even though many people disagree with controversial campaigns it sure looks like a good way to go. From a public relations standpoint this does usually does not help to connect with your target audience, however, it creates a strong presence. What do you think about using shock as a strategy?

6 Responses to “Electric Shock”

  1. benson09oregon May 5, 2008 at 11:32 pm #

    But can short-term shock value actually withstand the long-term implications it creates? Pushing the envelope is necessary for many celebrities; boundaries need to be tested to keep our culture from stagnating. However, without careful planning, shock value can erode a person’s credibility. In many cases, the bump in Internet traffic for a few days is probably not worth the long-term effects.
    However, in Kate Moss’ case, I think she employs shock value well. She selling a lingerie line, after all. Her situation is tailor-made for a shock value campaign.

  2. crosby May 6, 2008 at 9:15 am #

    Hi Sarah,

    I’m really enjoying your blog – welcome to the fold!

    I hate it when PR companies push shock value – in my experience it often comes from a lack of creativity and/or a lack of understanding who the client is and what they stand for. I believe that if you are communicating client messages effectively, at the right target market, in creative innovative ways, there is rarely any need to use over the top tactics.

    That said, I do recognize the value of testing boundaries and the fact that sometimes a bit of shock can help launch a conversation – I just hate to see it done for shock value alone.

  3. jameslutes May 6, 2008 at 9:29 pm #

    Using shock value effectively seems tricky. On one hand, it’s a great way to generate an immediate, kneejerk interest in your message. On the other hand, if people recognize you’re intentionally amplifying the shock value of an issue to create publicity, your message may lose its credibility. Personally, I think I’ll avoid using shock tactics in my professional career.

  4. olgawalsh May 7, 2008 at 7:06 pm #


    Thanks for commenting on my blog. It looks as though we share similar feelings about Vanity Fair’s attention-grabbing strategy. It was definitely a shocker for everyone when the Miley Cyrus cover came out, however I think that it got enough publicity to make Miley into a true A-list celebrity. Vanity Fair tends to an older audience and I believe that it is a great step for Miley for making it onto the cover of a respected, classy magazine like that. I did hear that Annie Leibovitz suggested to Miley that such a picture will sell magazines. Even though that comment makes some people uncomfortable, it is true. Celebrities are in this business because it is their job. That is how they make money, so why wouldn’t someone take up an opportunity that will make them money and also promote their image?

  5. sessary May 13, 2008 at 9:05 pm #

    Thanks again Crosby! I agree that if you are effectively communicating a message then there should be no use for shocking the public to grab attention.

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