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.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Dolce and Gabbana

Dolce and Gabbana consistently use provocative adverts in an attempt to shock the public and make their advertisements more memorable.  Although studies have shown that shocking adverts can be effective in influencing behaviour by increasing attention and memory (Dahl, Frankenberger & Manchanda, 2003), this particular advert sparked controversy as people felt it went too far in violating social norms and was extremely offensive towards women.  The males have adopted passive aggressive stances towards the woman, who is portrayed in a submissive, cowering role. She is powerless, being held down by one of the males and with an absent look in her eyes.  These kinds of adverts, whilst designed purely to evoke emotion and be memorable, can be linked to inspiring misogynistic views from men and leading woman to accept that they will always be overpowered by men and should accept an obedient, subservient role.  The scene is very suggestive with the implication of a ‘gang rape’ and in addition to promoting violence against women, it is also glamorising it with the attractive, well-dressed males.  Therefore, I believe that this is an ineffective advert as it is memorable for all the wrong reasons and would stop people from purchasing items from Dolce and Gabbana in order to distance themselves from the brand.

Ketelaar, van Hemmen and Anshutz conducted a study in which female participants were shown a sexually explicit advertisement in which a woman was used primarily as a sex object.  The participants then completed a questionnaire, measuring their attitudes towards the portrayal of women in advertisements and the effect those attitudes had on their view of the company and their future purchase intention.  It was found that although sexually objectifying advertisements did not seem to negatively impact the company image or their purchase intentions, adverts with high level of sexual objectification were deemed as unethical and offensive and led participants to have a negative view of the advert and consequently, the company.  The Dolce and Gabbana advertisement was clearly viewed as extremely sexually offensive as, following complaints from consumers’ groups, it was banned in both Spain and Italy.  Therefore, although the advertisement garnered a lot of publicity, many people were highly offended by it and this reaction would have negatively affected the company.


Dahl, D.W., Frankenberger, K.D. & Manchanda, R.V. (2003). Does it pay to shock? Reactions to shocking and nonshocking advertising content among university students. Journal of Advertising Research, 43, 268-280.

Ketelaar, P. E., van Hemmen, S. & Anschutz, D. (2012). Sexist advertising: do women care? Research into women’s attitudes towards sexual objectification in advertising and its effect on general purchase intentions and company image. Journal of Communication Science, 40, 4-5.

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