26 Incredibly Daring Ads That Were Made To Shock You


Photo: Sisley

Ever stumble upon an advertisement so shocking that you can’t believe it was allowed to be printed — or even created at all?It’s called “shockvertising.” As the name suggests, these ads are designed to shock you and create controversy in order to get you to remember them, mostly using violence, sex or taboos. Many went too far over the line in their quest to be “edgy” and were banned or rejected outright, but ended up out on the web anyway.

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Italian clothing retailer Benetton pioneered the style in the 1980s, and its now-iconic campaigns received mixed reviews. Though many were outraged at the imagery used, others praised them, as they addressed significant social issues like human and civil rights. Benetton wasn’t afraid to attack the taboos of the era such as AIDS and used real images to drive the point home, like in its award-winning 1991 ad that showed a photo of a father holding the lifeless body of his son in a hospital bed.

But shock ads can also backfire spectacularly. The World Wildlife Fund’s Brazilian branch invoked international rage with an ad about the 2009 tsunami disaster that depicted dozens of aeroplanes flying towards the World Trade centre. Italian designer Dolce & Gabbana was forced to pull a campaign of extremely sexual ads in 2007 which some claimed glorified gang rape.

So does this audacious method really work?  The style has become increasingly popular among the world’s ad agencies and many activist organisations continue to embrace it to raise awareness for their causes.

What do you think about these shock ads — are they brilliant and daring or just plain offensive?

Duncan Quinn - Unnamed (2008)

Calle 13 -- Unnamed (Spain, 2009). Television channel

Kiss Tobacco -- Unnamed (Israel, 2007)

Dolce & Gabbana -- Unnamed (2007)

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