MIDWAY:The shock factor

Imagine discovering a body lying on the floor with a bloodied knife protruding from a ghastly wound. And then, as you approach, perhaps already dialling the hospital emergency services on your mobile phone in panic, the dead body rises and

hands you a inordinately lengthy leaflet advertising a consumer product. This is the latest in “shockvertising”: the advertising industry’s attempt to get the public to sit up and take notice by apportioning not the emotional quotient or other advertising tricks used earlier but using the fear factor as a means to appeal the target consumers.

The campaign was devised by Portuguese guerilla marketing agency Torke, to publicise the latest series of United States TV show Dexter — about a serial killer who works for the Miami Metro police department as a blood spatter analyst. In the series, Dexter satisfies his blood thirst by killing people who “deserve it” and wrapping his victims in Cellophane to cover his tracks.

Torke creative Hugo Tornelo explains: “We wanted to shock the public, horrify them even, and I have to say it worked wonders for our purpose. With so much advertising around, people are getting harder to reach as they are confused with the bombardment of advertisements on the media. After the stunts in Lisbon, the viewer ratings were the highest seen on any Fox TV show and the campaign has popped up in many online blogs.”

The campaign involved actors with fake knife wounds in their backs, some posed as if they had fallen up stairs or been knifed when about to board a bus. “Stab victim”, actor Hugo Castro, describes having to “lie down on the floor in the middle of a busy station in Lisbon and pretend to be dead with a fake knife in my back. There was a mixed reaction. Some people were truly horrified, backing away scared. Others came over to ask if I was alright. Somebody actually phoned the police, which took a lot of explaining when they arrived. A few people were angry that we were using death as a promotional tool, but mostly people found it entertaining or funny.”

Will it be coming to the United Kingdom? With knife crime so often in the news, one wonders whether the British public would be so quick to get the joke.