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.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Go Compareeeeee

This is the very first advert of it's kind for the car insurance company, GoCompare. Besides the iconic tenor with the silly mustache, the effect I want to focus on is the nauseating theme song that accompanies it. Although we, as consumers, cannot tell whether the sheer annoyance of this song was a by-product of the company's attempt to make an extremely catchy theme song to stay in our heads, the look of disapproval on the men's faces as the tenor sings behind them coupled with the company's further adverts, in which the same iconic character reaches an untimely end from a number of high profile celebrities as soon as he begins his song, suggests this was deliberate. However, just hearing the opening many years after this advertisments first release should be enough to invoke the negative feelings associated, which leads onto the focus of the study found associating negative emotions with our memory and attentional resources for the message.

Bolls, Lang and Potter (2001) used measures of  Facial EMG, heart rate, and skin conductance to measure arousal while participants listened to 60 second radio adverts, pre-determined to elicit either positive or negative emotion. Participants then undertook a standard recall or recognitiin test to assess the effects of the emotion elicited on their working memory. The slowing of heart rate associated with an increase in attention was greater with messages that were coded to be negative, showing greater attention paid to these negative- elliciting advertisements. However, the difference on recall itself was attributed to the magnitude of the response ellicited (as shown by skin conductance and facial EMG measures) rather than whetehr the emotion was positive or negative.

Bolls, P. D., Lang, A. , Potter, A.F. (2001) The effects of message valence and listener arousal on attention, memory, and facial muscular responses to radio advertisements. Communication Research, 28(5), p. 627-651  DOI: 10.1177/009365001028005003


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This is a nice take on negativity. Well done. So I guess Go Compare is counting on the continuing, serial nature of the narrative to produce the eventual positive association over multiple advertisements. In the meantime, they are satisfied with merely being remembered, whatever the cost of the association. On the other hand, maybe the tune gains some strange beauty after multiple hearings. And it's simple enough to hear it repeating in your head, after only one hearing--enter the jingle.


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