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.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Usain Bolt mimics Richard Branson in Virgin Media superfast broadband ad

Virgin Media's advertisement features the Olympic gold medal-winning sprinter Usain Bolt, mimicking Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson to promote its £110m move to double broadband speed for its Internet customers. The advert uses the high status-admirer altercast, humour and uses a metaphor.

The advert uses the high-status altercast by having an Olympic gold medalist, admired because of his record-breaking achievements represent the Virgin Media brand. Evidence for the high-status altercast is shown by Bickerman (1971), where it was found that people had a higher chance of returning a dime that was lost in a phone booth if the request was made by females dressing nicely and males wearing suits, than when the same people wore causal clothing.

Furthermore, the advert uses Usain Bolt as a metaphor in Virgin’s advertisement for double broadband speed. Evidence for the effect of metaphors is shown by Gilovich (1981). It was found that thoughts about interventions were produced when a military crisis was compared to Nazi Germany. However thoughts about avoiding involvement were provoked when comparisons were made to Vietnam.

Virgin Media also uses humour in their advert by having a high status individual (i.e. Usain Bolt) mimicking another high status individual (i.e. Richard Branson). Evidence shows that humour increases overall favorable responses, specifically for people whose need for cognition is low (Zhang, 1996).

Bickerman, L. (1971). The effect of social status on the honesty of others. Journal of Social Psychology, 85, 87-92.

Gilovich, T. (1981). Seeing the Past in the Present: The Effect of Associations to Familiar Events on Judgments and Decisions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 40, 797-808.
Zhang, Y. (1996). Responses to humorous advertising: The moderating effect of need for cognition. Journal of Advertising,25, 15-32.

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