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.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Don't lose your contacts when you drop your phone....

This advert is promoting a new text-service which enables you to back up the contacts on your mobile. This advert is quite difficult to determine whether it works, or whether it is too tenuous and distasteful, I would argue the latter.

This advert attempts to combine the fear and humour technique. Fear, because it allows you to imagine the scene all your contacts/ friends having fallen from a tall building. I see this as partial humour, due to the ridiculous link, between a tragic scene and the aim of the advert; to simply back up your phone. When we worry about losing our contacts, I don’t think anyone imagines you will lose these people permanently. Similarly, the text describing the actual aim of the advert is so small, and due to the non-existent phone in the picture, I would say this advert does not clearly promote the text service effectively.

Research has suggested that this juxtaposition may be beneficial in advertising. As both are good persuasive techniques when used separately.  It has been suggested that by adding an element of humour to an advert already using a fear technique, it lessens the defensive response ,as the humour provides a safe context.  Conway and Dubé (2002) have shown that including humour in a moderate-fear ad for HIV and promoting condom usage, improved the persuasive aspect for individuals with high masculinity personality traits. They showed a fear-invoking advert about AIDS, but combined this either with humour (a “happy-go-luck penis cartoon”) or no-humour, their attitudes were then measured in an explicit rating scale about public health attitudes; specifically AIDS and condom use. Similarly, those who had seen the humour condition, and had high masculinity traits reported higher behaviour intent (to later use condoms). This also suggests that this combination may only be beneficial for certain audiences. Therefore, if this advert is only directed at males with high masculinity traits, then it may work, however, for others it may be less beneficial.

Research has shown that fear works well in advertising when it is at a moderate level (Higbee, 1969). However, with this advert the fear aspect could be seen as low, in that there is no blood shown. However, maybe it is too high for this specific advert, leaving a strange link between the aim of the advert and what is displayed. I would recommend changing the fear level to a more moderate and even less-ambiguous level. Or better yet using either humour or fear, and not trying to combine the two. Maybe you could “lose your contacts” in a way, which isn’t a horrible scene of carnage. When you drop your phone, your contacts become temporarily inaccessible, so depicting a scene of your contacts locked up behind prison bars, may be more relevant. However, one could argue that bizarre adverts are remembered and therefore more persuasive. But I personally would be discouraged to support this distasteful advert!

Conway, M., & Dubé, L. (2002). Humour in persuasion on threatening topics: Effectiveness is a function of audience sex role orientation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28(7), 863-873.
Higbee, K. L. (1979). Fifteen years of fear arousal: Research on threat appeals. Psychological Bulletin, 72(6), 426-444.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting ad and interesting research too. THanks.


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