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.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

HEADON! Apply directly to the forehead.

This commercial is one of the worst advertisements someone can find. Not only because the technique they try to apply is not well suited but also because the lack of information given of the product acts against the product itself.

Many researches have studied the powerful effects that repetition of the name of the brand has in commercials. These effects are stronger for those products in which the brand is unknown by the general public, as the increased frequency of exposure increases familiarity on the product and led to more total thoughts for it (Calder and Sternthal, 1980).

However, Belch (1982) carried out an experiment in which subjects were shown a 1-hour video of advertisements. The aim of the study was to measure the persuasive power of repetition on future consumers. Two variables were measured: the number of times the target commercial appeared in the 1 hour video (from 1 to 5) and the number of times the name of the brand appeared in the target commercial (from 1 to 5).  He found out that there was a significant increase in negative thoughts between the 3 and 5 exposure conditions suggesting a reactance to the multiple message exposures. The best attitudinal results were found on those trials in which the commercial was shown from 2 to 3 times in the 1-hour video and in which the brand was mentioned no more than 2 times in the target commercial.
In the example above, ‘Headon’ (the name of the product) is repeated 4 times and the slogan ‘Apply directly to the forehead’ is repeated 3 times, all of it in 9 seconds.

In this commercial, the insufficient information of the utility and purposes of the product doesn’t collaborate to persuade future buyers. In advertisements which some kind of medicine product is trying to be sold, the most useful techniques are related to show the audience the previous harmful symptoms felt and the relieve after taken it. This Ad doesn’t even tell us what the product is specifically for or in which way it helps you to improve the symptoms. 
The only message that it’s transmitted in this commercial is that the product is really easy to use. The slogan ‘Apply directly to the forehead’ accompanied by a simple image of a woman applying the product on her forehead creates a clear and direct message of its ease use.

The repetitive message of ‘HEADON! Apply directly to the forehead’ added to a lack of information of the utility of the product results into an annoying and non-functional commercial.


Calder, B. J. and Sternthal, B. (1980). Television commercial wearout: an information processing view. Journal of Marketing Research.

Belch, G. E. (1982). The effects of television commercial repetition on cognitive response and message acceptance. Journal of Consumer Research.

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