If you are intending original thinking on the subject, it might be more beneficial, rather than simply going straight to what others have written on the subject relating to design and advertising, to be – initially, at least – reading deeper, ie, researching the psychology and physiology of fear; where and how it’s use could be positive or detrimental, ie, societal benefit versus potential risk to vulnerable people by employing such tactics.
Fundamentally, however, you need to determine and posit a premise for your thesis. What are you attempting to prove or refute with your research and then in turn create a logical case for?
It may be that you have already done this and just didn’t state it in your original post. I think it could make the basis for a really solid thesis, but it will be much easier if you determine what it is, specifically, you want to prove / refute with your research. That way you’ll have a specific area to read around and towards.
I think what I am saying is don’t look ONLY at existing writing on the specific subject, as related to advertising. As a student of design, you should be already familiar with the idea of marrying disparate thoughts together to find a new solution. The possibilities are endless with a bit of lateral thinking.
How beneficial are scare tactics to commercial advertising as opposed to public health, say? The use of scare tactics in political advertising. You could go on forever…
If I were doing it, I’d be looking at both the benefit vs damage aspects (societal and personal), along with ethics and morality. For example, off the top of my head; if eliciting a fear response to encourage people to stop smoking is acceptable, for example, where is the moral line for where it is not? At what point does it become unethical. To my mind it is employed far too liberally in advertising as it is,
Use Germideath on your surfaces to kill 99% of all known bacteria.
Outside of the current Covid crisis, where we have to be especially mindful of our cleaning habits, has this kind of advertising caused an irrational, widespread fear of bacteria. If we eliminated all bacteria, our immune systems wouldn’t be able to build up a resistance and thus we would become more vulnerable to infection. Is this kind of fear-mongering, presented as concern for our welfare, in fact, just another cynical way to sell you more stuff? Does this cross an ethical line? If so, why is it unethical. This then comes back to the psychological and physiological effects of eliciting base, temporal-lobe, amygdala responses.
On the other hand, fewer people die from strep infections than they did 100 years ago.
Anyway, I’m rambling. But, you see, it doesn’t take much to open up an avenue of research. There are a thousand avenues (and rabbit holes!) to go down with this. It could be a really interesting one.