This effective and compelling ‘Quit Smoking’ campaign is packed full of persuasion techniques.
First of all the ad induces a state of empathy in the viewer. Archer et al (1979) asked jurors either to imagine themselves as the defendant (empathy-inducing appeal) or to pay close attention to evidence (nonempathy appeal). Increased empathy towards a defendant in a mock trial resulted in a more lenient sentence decision, supporting the role of empathy in persuasion attempts. In the current ad, before the topic is raised it is immediately presumed that a young child is desperately searching for his parent in a busy unfamiliar place. Most viewers can relate to the panic and dread produced when separated from a parent in childhood. So we are cognitively aware of the child’s emotional state and feel concern and distress at his emotions in ourselves. This is very powerful, and we feel the desire to help the child, leaving us vulnerable to influence.
Second, as the child is part of the source of the message, he may invoke the ‘dependency-responsibility’ altercast in the viewer, placing them in the role of a responsible agent. Pratkanis and Gliner (2004) compared expert and children persuaders talking about nuclear disarmament or a new planet discovery. They found that the children were more effective communicators that experts on the issue of nuclear disarmament, concluding that children are more effective communicators of protection-themed issues. Anti-smoking is protection-themed as the public’s health is in its interest.
Third, a very effective technique employed is the use of imagery in the line ‘Just imagine if they lost you for life’. Asking viewers to ‘imagine’ what something would be like can increase their compliance with a course of action compared to merely listing the advantages or disadvantages (Gregory et al, 1982).
The conclusion ‘Quit smoking today’ is well placed, as Sawyer and Howard (1991) find that conclusions are effective when the viewer has high personal involvement in the issue – which will certainly be the case for the targets (parents who smoke).
And finally the advert induces a state of fear in the target. They have conjured a distressing image and reminded smokers that they are harming themselves (priming the prospect of death) and the consequence of this harm may leave your child alone and distressed, far and beyond the distress of the child that has already invoked intense empathy. This fear appeal creates an avoidance tendency, increasing the likelihood of acquiescence with the request to stop smoking (Leventhal, 1970).
Archer, R. L., Foushee, H. C., Davis, M. H., & Aderman, D. (1979). Emotional empathy in a courtroom situation: A person-situation interaction. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 9, 275-291.
Gregory, W. L., Cialdini, R. B.,& Carpenter, K. M. (1982). Self-relevant scenarios as mediators of likelihood estimates and compliance: Does imagining make it so? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43, 89-99
Leventhal, H. (1970). Findings and theory in the study of fear communications. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.) Advances in experimental and social psychology (Vol. 5, pp. 119-186). New York: Academic Press.
Pratkanis, A. R., & Gliner, M. D. (2004). And when shall a little child lead them? Evidence for an altercasting theory of source credibility. Current Psychology, 23, 279-304.
Sawyer, A. G., & Howard, D. J. (1991). Effects of omitting conclusions in advertisements to involved and uninvolved audiences. Journal of Marketing Research, 28, 467-474.