Ad agencies around the world have adopted the audacious method, with activist organizations like PETA specializing in scandalous imagery.
Italian clothing retailer Benetton pioneered the style in the 1980s. Its now-iconic campaigns have received mixed reviews, like an award-winning AIDS awareness ad from 1991 that showed a father holding the lifeless body of his son in a hospital bed.
The style is powerful, but it can backfire, like when the World Wildlife Fund drew ire for comparing the 2004 Tsunami disaster to the World Trade Center attack.
We took print images from the past few decades to give you a look into the global shockvertising scene. It's up to you to decide if they're brilliant, offensive, or both.
Kim Bhasin contributed research to this article.