These adverts use guilt which is aimed at parents with overweight children to try and stop childhood obesity.
Despite using provocative images and messages, I feel that this advertising campaign uses a moderate level of guilt appeal. Although the message is focused towards parents, there is not a direct accusation. Instead they are themselves made to think about their responsibility for the wrongdoing and the impact this has upon their child. As demonstrated in research by Coulter and Pinto (1995), the use of such an appeal is the most likely to elicit an attitude change. These adverts are encouraging the audience to make a lifestyle change and repair their self-image (of having an overweight child) that is being challenged and shown to be socially unacceptable.
Coulter and Pinto (1995) demonstrated the effects of guilt appeals in an experiment where working mothers were shown visual adverts for dental floss and bread. Each advert contained a picture and worded message used to provoke varying levels of guilt (low, moderate and high). After being shown a randomly assigned advert, participants filled out a questionnaire relating to cognitions, emotions and purchase intentions.
They found that moderate guilt appeals (such as images of a boy and mother with the wording ‘You shape your child’s dental health, so don’t let your family down.’) produced the highest level of emotional response. They showed that by using moderate guilt appeals, the optimal level of attracting an audience’s attention and provoking the desired emotional response is achieved and an attitude change can be seen.
Interestingly, in the high guilt condition, participants felt ‘under attack’ to change their attitudes and therefore a negative relationship between anger and attitude change was seen.
Coulter, R. H., & Pinto, M. B. (1995). Guilt appeals in advertising: what are their effects? The Journal of Applied Psychology, 80, 697-705.