No matter where an ad appears—on TV, across the Internet, in a magazine, or wherever—it struggles to grab a distracted audience’s attention. The ad gets attention by giving viewers a puzzle to solve. Why are those women so shocked and embarrassed? What are those kids doing? Can those really be giant rubber phalluses? The answer to the puzzle is not only amusing, it is daring, because, of course, viewers are uncomfortable with the sight of enormous dildos, especially in the hands of children.
Giving viewers a simple puzzle to solve is a wonderful way to draw people into the ad and have them participate in the message. And using dildos is apparently an effective tool—so to speak—as well. The ad not only captures the viewer’s attention in the traditional sense, it also gets attention from those viewers sharing virally, and from media outlets discussing the ad, which in turn generates more views and additional sharing.
In this case, the ad spells things out for us lest we arrive at the wrong conclusion. The announcer tells us, “If they find it, they will play with it.” So viewers should be careful where they put their sex toys and, more importantly, “Always lock up your guns.”
If the ad had used images of the real problem–children playing with guns–few people would have shared it with others, the media would have ignored it, and viewers, who would rather not think about what could happen, wouldn’t pay much attention.