Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills 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 21, 2013

I'm on a horse.

This Old Spice advert for a men’s shower gel uses the peripheral route to persuasion. This advert doesn’t require the viewer to consider the pros and cons of the issue presented, instead simply associating the object with positive cues. The viewer makes a simple inference about the merits of the product based on various simple cues in the message (Petty, Cacioppo, & Schumann, 1983)
The two routes of persuasion were investigated by Petty, Cacioppo and Schumann in their 1983 paper. In this study, undergraduates were asked to express their attitudes towards a product after being exposed to an advert under high and low involvement conditions. This advertisement contained either a strong or weak arguments for the product. Students were given a booklet of advertisements. The manipulated ad was for Edge razors. Involvement was manipulated by telling students they can choose a 1. particular brand of disposable razor (high involvement) or 2. a brand of toothpaste (low involvement). Furthermore, high involvement group was also told that the product would be available in their area in the near future. In the strong argument advert the razor was described as “scientifically designed”, whereas in the weak argument one it was “designed for beauty”. The research showed that when the advertisement concerned a product of high involvement, the cogency of the information about the product contained in the persuasive message was a powerful determinant of product evaluation. On the other hand, in the low involvement condition, celebrity endorsement was a powerful tool for improving attitudes towards the product (Petty et al., 1983).

Furthermore the physically attractive-admirer altercast (occupies a prestigious position in status hierarchy) is used as a persuasion technique. It is likely that others will admire the high-status person and seek to be like them. It works with the public’s desire to identify with the beautiful. The man in the advert represents a type of man the women want their man to be. This advert also uses source credibility – the attractiveness and implied wealth of the persuader. The actor in the clip keeps mentioning for the viewer to look at them (Pratkanis, 2007).

Finally the advert sets expectations for the viewers. It implies that if the man starts using Old Spice, not only will he smell like the attractive persuader but also will resemble him in other ways, buy tickets to “that thing you love”, etc. After all “anything is possible when your man smells like Old Spice and not a lady”.


Petty, R. E., Cacioppo, J. T., & Schumann, D. (1983). Central and peripheral routes to advertising effectiveness: The moderating role of involvement. Journal of Consumer Research, 10, 135-146.

Pratkanis (2007). The science of social influence: Advances and future progress. Psychology Press.





  1. Great ad. Can you say more about how any of the experiments were done?

    this is an interesting breakdown of just how successful these ads were


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