I was first introduced to the concept of disruptive advertising by marketing agency Richter 7, based in Salt Lake City, Utah. They pride themselves in disrupting the status quo.
An example of disruptive advertising
Several years ago, Richter 7 produced a commercial (which I could not find online anywhere) showing a dumpster in a back alley.
You can hear a baby crying, screaming even.
As a dump truck approaches and prepares to lift and dump, your heart begins to crawl into your throat at the thought of a baby being abandoned and then crushed. As the dumpster raises and the cries intensify, a teenage girl is revealed behind the dumpster holding the baby.
The commercial for adoption services ends by saying that there is help and a way out even though you may feel trapped as a pregnant teenager.
The success of the commercial was based on presenting an unexpected scene and then playing on the viewers emotions.
Had Richter 7 simply created a commercial saying, “We know it’s hard to be a teen mom. But there’s help,” and then shown loving images of babies and families, then the commercial would have been a failure.
It would have been normal. Expected.
Instead, the clip was disruptive. Unexpected.
From my days in Mexico…
I had the opportunity to live in Mexico City for a period of two years.
While waiting for a bus one afternoon, a large poster at the bus stop grabbed my attention. The image depicted an aged, brick wall with graffiti.
The crudely painted graffiti read, “Puto el que lo lea.” Translated, “Damn whoever reads this.”
The vulgar phrase begged me to read on. Neatly printed near the bottom of the poster was the statement, “One third of Mexicans are not offended by this because they can’t read.” The public service announcement was about literacy, or rather, the lack thereof.
I have always marveled at the simplicity and effectiveness of this ad campaign. The message is clear and unambiguous. The tone and imagery presents a sobering and lasting impact.
I was immediately emotionally involved. I wanted to see change and wondered how I could be involved.
The one element missing from the advertisement, though, was a strong call to action. As it was a government sponsored public service announcement, I was not sure what to do with the information now that I was shocked to attention.
What you should do
The best and fastest way to move someone through the buying decision is to create emotion.
Use words, visuals and/or music to quickly paint a powerful image in the viewers’ mind. And if that image is unexpected, unusual, out of the ordinary and disruptive, then the image will be more powerful.
It will beg to be acted upon.
For some more examples, check out 80 Extreme Advertisements That Will Challenge Your Mind (don’t view if you are easily offended).
Photo Credit: Mugley