Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Banksy on Advertisers



This image by Banksy features a hard-hitting message which communicates to the public that they are being fooled by commercial advertisers, whose persuasive strategies function by inducing feelings of inadequacy and dissatisfaction. The latter part of the message urges people to rebel against copyright laws, intellectual property rights and trademarks, which protect the harmful messages of advertisers.  


Banksy’s message is controversial as it features swear words and slang, and promotes resistance of the capitalism and commercialism which dominate today’s society. Rebelling against social norms will shock the audience and therefore increase the likelihood of remembering the persuasive message (Heckler & Childers, 1992). Furthermore, the short, snappy sentences utilised lower the cognitive effort involved in processing and allow people to process it heuristically (Chaiken, 1980).  

One particularly powerful aspect of the message is the irony of featuring a highly negative anti-advertisement message against a backdrop of a globally recognised commercial image, Coca Cola’s contour bottle. The audience will instantly recognise the Coca Cola bottle and the truth of Banksy’s message will be conveyed: as members of the public, we cannot escape advertisements.  Additionally, as one of the world’s most powerful and successful brands, Coca Cola’s global advertising campaigns represent exactly what Banksy is rebelling against. The association of the negative message with Coca Cola’s trademark image will condition the audience to develop negative attitudes towards the brand.  


Such an effect was demonstrated in a classic experiment by Staats and Staats (1958), in which they paired the national social category label ‘Dutch’ with negative words and the national category label ‘Swedish’ with positive words, and vice versa. Participants watched as the national category words appeared on a computer screen, and at the same time repeated words spoken by the experimenter, which were either negative (such as ‘bitter’, ‘ugly’, ‘failure’) or positive (such as ‘gift’, ‘sacred’, or ‘happy’). Afterwards, the participants rated each nationality on a scale. The results showed that participants’ attitudes towards Sweden and Holland were congruent with the emotional value that the nations had been paired with; so for example, participants who had (on instruction) paired ‘Swedish’ with positive words rated the nation more positively than those who had paired it with negative words. 

Chaiken, S. (1980). Heuritstic versus systematic information processing and the use of source versus message cues in persuasion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39, 751-766.


Heckler, S. E., & Childers, T. L. (1992). The role of expectancy and relevancy in memory for verbal and visual information: What is incongruency? Journal of Consumer Research, 475-492.

Staats, C. K., & Staats, A. W. (1958) Attitudes established by classical conditioning. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 57, 37-40.

1 comment:

  1. This is a just plain excellent advert. And it probably works for Banksy, which is funny enough in its own right.

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