Social marketing has become a key component of policy initiatives aimed at reducing the incidence of domestic abuse. However, its efficacy remains debated, with most measures of effectiveness being somewhat crude. More subtle effects of social marketing, such as the boomerang effect whereby the message engenders the opposite effect to that intended, have been detected, suggesting a need for modes of analysis sensitive to the multiple ways in which viewers react to social opprobrium. This article attempts to deliver just this. It begins with a short history and critique of the concept of social marketing. It then proceeds to explore the utility of the more complex notion that viewers often identify with the subject positions thrown open by social marketing on a quite temporary basis, before reconfiguring them. Using the responses of domestic abuse perpetrators exposed to the UK Government's This is Abuse campaign film, the article shows how contradictory identifications with both anti-violence messages and victim-blaming discourses are negotiated by those young men prone to perpetrating domestic abuse. The article concludes by exploring how effectiveness might be better conceptualised and assessed with regard to the impact of anti-violence social marketing that speaks to domestic abuse perpetrators. © The Author(s) 2014.