Fear Appeal in Advertising

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Sanjana Ahuja
Section B
Roll Number - 18143


Whether it is the fear of a receding hairline or of the body odor, whether it is the fear of aging or of social stigma – the advertising industry has been seeking to tap into these fears and many more with the aim propelling people to adopt, continue, discontinue or avoid a specified course of thought or action. However, the use of fear appeal in advertising has not been without debate. The debate has ranged from the effectiveness of the appeal as an action inducing strategy to the appropriateness of its use in the broader context of societal welfare, from what are the levels of fear that an advertisement can and should tap into to whether different demographic clusters have differing responses to the fear appeal. Consensus regarding these debates, however, continues to evade the advertising industry. The use of fear appeals in advertising is more or less synonymous with social awareness campaigns. So whether it is the anti tobacco advertisements or the save the environment advertisements, these advertisements usually seek to incite fear in the audience with the aim of inciting them to take some action. But the use of fear in advertising goes much beyond these social awareness campaigns to include categories such as personal care products, home care products and many more. But in such categories, the idea of fear may not be as overt. For instance, an advertisement showing a young boy facing rejection from the girl he likes on account of his bad breath plays on the fear of rejection that many young boys harbour. The advertisement aims to propel these young boys to purchase a particular brand of toothpaste in order to avoid such undesirable scenarios. The psychological process ultimately leading up to the desired action comprises of arousal. Arousal is imperative for any kind of change in individual behavior to...
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