Graphic images can be disturbing, but they are also proven to change minds. This has been tested through the footage of Haiti in its time of need, as well as in public service announcements. Whether it’s right or not, it seems to be working.
I’ve noticed a shift in the way public service announcements have been presented. At first we had Smokey the Bear, a likable character representing everyone’s responsibility to put out forest fires. We also had Pee Wee Herman told us about the dangers of crack. Both were figures that were there to be looked up to, and now our view has gone from admiration towards doing the right thing to shock at what is to come.
When a PSA comes on television now, it is usually on an expected subject shown in a very unexpected way. You have the smoking commercials, where you see the outcome of a lifetime of smoking, from people with amputations, to people who speak out of a box, to people who cannot speak at all. The images are disturbing, but send the message. Sure, there are some that still do not use graphic imagery to get the point across, such as the texting and driving ads showing the last text a person read before crashing. Usually there is a family member or friend who sent the text and is now urging others not to do the same. These seem to work without the graphic images, but still work on the basis of showing you what is to come. Another texting and driving ad went the other route, and created controversy in doing so. The Gwent Police Department in Wales received controversy from their ultra violent safety video on the subject. The video went on to get over 5 billion views on YouTube.
You can say the violence is inappropriate, or you can say it builds resentment to the cause, but either way it’s obvious that graphic images in public service announcements work.