Since its earliest days, the advertising industry has played on our fears. Until now, however, its practitioners have been somewhat limited as to how effectively they could do so. Guy Cotten, a French company that sells lifejackets and other safety gear, recently released a short interactive video that inspires real terror, with an ulterior motive.

Upon first launching the video, you encounter two friends on a beautiful day taking a leisurely sailboat ride. The protagonist hands the rudder to a friend while he goes to check on a minor problem with the sail at the back of the ship. After yanking a bit too hard, he falls off the boat into the water, and his inexperienced friend is unable to turn the ship back around. At this point, you receive a message saying that if you want to stay afloat you'll need to keep scrolling up. 



Here’s where it gets crazy. If you don’t go fast enough, you'll sink and die clawing at the sand. If you do manage to scroll in a frenzy, you experience various graphic symptoms of fatigue, anger, despair, and hypothermia. Either way, you end up on the ocean floor, with the final message being that you should wear a lifejacket.

The video has quickly gained a tremendous amount of attention, with people commonly using words like “disturbing” and “terrifying” to describe it. More importantly, it’s raised a great deal of awareness around the importance of using safety equipment while at sea.

In the past, many of us greeted marketers’ attempts to scare us into changing our behavior with derision or outright laughter. Think back to the “This is Your Brain on Drugs” commercials of yesteryear. So what made this spot so different? 

The answer is brilliant in its simplicity. In traditional fear-based advertising, you are, by necessity, passively observing someone else depicting an experience. In contrast, the interactivity of Guy Cotten’s piece gets you as close to the reality of drowning as any of you would conceivably want to.



While the aim of your marketing may not be to terrify, digital technology gives you unparalleled ability to deliver a taste of reality to your prospects. If you can tie that experience to the results of using--or not using--what you’re selling, it will only be a matter of time until your sales rise far above the surface.