On a road trip earlier this week, I was fortunate enough to see a lot of advertising billboards and vehicles sporting exciting promotional spots for various products and services. For a good 30 minutes, I drove behind a white van which bore one of the most unforgettable advertising slogans I’ve ever read:
Do you have radon? Your neighbor does!
At first I thought, why isn’t my neighbor sharing some of his delicious radon with me? Then I remembered that radon is a poisonous gas responsible for tens of thousands of lung cancer deaths each year. So either my neighbor is bottling his radon in order to sell it on the black market, or… he doesn’t have radon!
But why would the white van lie to me? Why would it tell me my neighbor has radon if he actually doesn’t? That’s when it hit me: the van’s slogan makes a whole lot more sense when it’s parked at somebody’s house when they’re on a service call. I imagine it inspires conversations like this one:
Wife: (Looking out window.) Hey honey, did you know that the Hendersons have radon?
Husband: Really? That’s a shame.
Wife: And the service van suggests we might too.
Husband: Holy crap! Go outside and give those guys $5,000 right now so they come check our home for deadly poison gas!
Cha-ching. Another sale for the radon guys. And how did they do it? It’s simple: something I like to call advertising terrorism. By suggesting what could happen if you don’t partake in their products or services, a business can scare you into spending lots of money to protect your family, your home, and your collection of ceramic roosters.
This wasn’t the first time I was a victim of an attempted advertising terrorism attack. See if you recognize some of these ad campaigns designed to “scare” up some business.
- Every thirty seconds, someone dies of a heart attack. You may have seen a television ad for your local cardiac-specializing hospital using a catch-phrase like this one. It’s sometimes followed by “You could be next,” though if they were really trying hard, they’d say “You will be next” or “It’s too late for the guy next to you, but there’s still time to save yourself with a check-up today.”
- Now with 50% less fat than the leading brand. Translation: don’t buy the leading brand because it will make you fat. If you have the leading brand in your house, throw it away or become 50% fatter.
- With dual crumple zones and front, side, rear, and overhead airbags—something you won’t find in the competitor’s vehicle. You better trade in your deathmobile for that car or the only thing that will be crumpling in an accident will be you.
- Refinance now and keep your home! I’ve been seeing a lot of signs like this one lately strewn along city roads. Many people in my area are carrying dangerous mortgages that will adjust soon, so making it seem like they’ll be homeless without your magic loan is a great way to get customers in the door.
- Join today! Our prices go up January 1st. Why are you still reading this article? Didn’t you hear the man? The rates are going up on January 1st! Get your butt over there and join now!
Fear in advertising must be fairly successful because it seems to be on the rise in virtually every product and service category. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; in exchange for most of your hard-earned dollars, you’re left with a sense of safety. No longer will you need to be concerned with radon, heart attacks, or being condensed into a bite-sized morsel by a semi. It’s a win-win situation!
The Top Ten Advertising Terrorism Campaigns They’re Not Smart Enough to Come Up With
It seems that some businesses are having a bit of trouble cashing in on the lucrative advertising terrorism thing. Well I’m here to say that anyone can start their own advertising terrorism campaign. Don’t believe me? Then here are some slogans that should inspire you to strike fear into the hearts of your customers.
- Every three seconds, someone in the world dies of hunger. Don’t let the next person… be you. Come on down to IHOP today for our triple-stack pancakes!
- Mattel: Buy all our new toys because the old ones are full of lead.
- Do you like having an ozone layer to keep the sun’s rays from boiling you alive? Test drive a hybrid Prius at a Toyota dealer near you.
- Join the NRA today and protect your gun rights. Because it’s only a matter of time before we piss off the wrong country.
- The McDonald’s Dollar Menu: Buy from it now or we’ll start making burgers out of bunnies.
- There’s a reason your mouth is home to millions of bacteria: they’re just biding their time until they attack your brain. Use Scope and kill the germs that cause bad breath and maybe brain rotting.
- The Catholic Church: Enroll today and save your soul from eternal damnation.
- Coming up on the News at 10: A dangerous predator may be lurking in your neighborhood. We’ll tell you where he was sighted and if you could be next. Correction: you will be next if you don’t watch us. And no switching channels on commercials because we’re only going to say it once.
- Don’t miss the next exciting episode of Heroes. We might just show the hot cheerleader girl’s boobs. You never know!
- Chia Pets: The only thing between you and dying a lonely, meaningless life.