Friday, January 28, 2005

Physical Threat Advertising

Ryan and I recently started adapting our eating habits to fit a diet that resides somewhere between the Atkins' and the South Beach diets. It's called "The Zone." Through a 1:1:1 ratio of protein, non-processed carbohydrate, and fat, Dr. Sears boasts of The Zone's ability to help you achieve "superhealth" (yes that's one word). Sounds like it should be advertised by a big bumpy oily wrestler, doesn't it?

Nothing motivates you more than a big hulking man in "attack" position to impart the idea that physical harm will find you, should you not follow the rules. Let's face it: it's not easy giving up the bread, pasta, and cereal. You may even feel a similar kind of aggression that our friend Rhyno harbors when trying not to indulge your cravings. Just remember that there's always someone bigger to beat the living crap out of you if you do. Besides, it only takes a couple of days to stabilize your blood sugar level so that the cravings subside. In fact, perhaps the biggest challenge of all is that once you're in "the zone" it's often difficult to finish meals and snacks. One "block" of carbohydrate is for example, something like nine cups of zucchini. I like zucchini, but not that much. The trouble is that The Zone emphasizes in the same smackdown way that you must finish your food. Sounds like Grandma should advertise this one:

Yes, ma'am. "Physical threat advertising" works. Especially in the United States. We love violence and have a little of that sadomasochistic Puritanism where we can't be saved until we've had a massive ass whooping for all our wrongs. Think about it. We've been using "physical threat advertising" for decades, centuries even; and it starts when we're kids. Reclining in the dentist's chair while supposedly waiting for your fluoride treatment to saturate your teeth, you may recall looking at a poster on the ceiling similar to this:

Was the dental assistant really waiting for that fluoride treatment or giving you some time to think long and hard about all that plaque she had to scrape off? And then there were those field trips to the downtown library. Does this look familiar?

You might say, "Kell, maybe the ad is saying, 'Read a you can be tough like me.'" But kids are smart. They know Rhyno didn't need books to get where he is today. The only time you'll see Rhyno with a book is when picks one up off the referees' table and smacks his opponent upside the head in the ring with it. Besides, if it's saying "be tough like me," it's arguable that the ad is geared towards boys...on one hand he has long hair, on the other, it may be a savage caveman and club throwback which reinforces the idea of a physical threat--especially towards women. Remember this guy:
Our own government (Gasp! What a surprise!) utilizing a physical threat figure. Perhaps to modernize the idea we should dress Rhyno up in a stars and stripe suit. Then again, what better way to fool Americans into thinking that violence is a part of cultural heritage and responsibility than to use the vintage icon over and over with modernized words and ideas:

Of course the Uncle Sam icon has been dissected to death so if you have any examples of "physical threat advertising," send them my way and I'll be happy to post them.

If you're unsure of whether or not an ad is a physical threat, ask yourself these questions:
1) Is there a lack of smile on the subject's face? Smiling would indicate "friendly face."
2) Does the subject appear to be looking you in the eye?
3) Is the subject in an imposing "attack position"?
4) Does the ad make sense when you tack on the phrase, "...or I'll kick your ass." (ex: BRUSH YOUR TEETH...or I'll kick your ass.")

If you answer "yes" to three or more of these questions, the advertisement is a physical threat. Maybe the government doesn't intend to appear as a physical threat. After all, we know what jokesters they are in the District of Columbia.

I found this on


  1. Anonymous8:13 AM

    You will find this funny, but I learned from my health messages classes in public health grad school that negative images practically never work. The only thing that works to get someone to do something is to punish them when they do it (or don't do it, if the case may be). But people rarely are scared from fear-based ads. Because we know the Rhyno can't actually see us, and won't actually come after us after we do something that is unhealthy. If the posters were a warning that there is a Rhyno on the premises and he will, in fact, kick your ass if you are participating in underage drinking, well, that's pretty convincing. Especially if you are witnessing, out of the corner of your eye, Rhyno beating someone up for underage drinking not ten feet away.

  2. Oh yeah?! Well maybe Rhyno will have to take a little trip to visit you...AND KICK YOUR ASS!!!