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.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mr T has gone nuts for Snickers!

This snickers commercial features Mr T who is firing several of the chocolate bars at a male speed walker.  In Mr T’s opinion men shouldn’t be speed walking and the aim of firing chocolate bars is to get the speed walker to run because he is ‘a disgrace to the man race’ and it is time to ‘run like a real man’. There are some ways the advert effectively uses persuasion techniques, however it also produced some controversy.

Firstly, source credibility has been used as a persuasion technique. Mr T who is a celebrity well known for portraying a tough guy character has been used to convey the image that snickers is for ‘real men’. Research has found that a celebrity figure is perceived as more competent and trustworthy than a non-celebrity figure (Atkin & Block, 1983). Therefore, Mr T has been used in order to effectively persuade consumers that snickers is a chocolate bar for real, tough men.

Secondly, the firing of chocolate bars is humorous which is another effective technique. Thompson,  (2001) found that humour increased memory performance.  Humour has also been shown to enhance memory for advertisements (Hansen, Strick, van Baaren, Hooghuis, & Wigboldus, 2009). So, humour has been used in this advert to make it more memorable amongst viewers which possibly could lead to an increased awareness and desire of the product.

However, it seems as though this humour was taken a bit too far as some viewers found the advert offensive. Some claim the advert was offensive in particular to the homosexual community as the speed walker is slightly effeminate and Mr T was seen to be violent towards him as he was displaying signs of anger in his voice and of course his actions. Therefore, some viewers felt that the advert was promoting violence towards effeminate men. Perhaps this humour was misinterpreted by many as a result of the anger conveyed by Mr T. Instead the advert could have maybe portrayed Mr T as less angry hence making the humour a bit more obvious.

Moreover, the advert makes use of deliberate humorous embarrassment. One could argue that the speed walker was embarrassed as he was made to feel like a ‘whimp’, ‘not man enough’ and having objects thrown at him. This to some viewers was seen as ridiculous because yet again the male speed walker was ridiculed in a sense. Nevertheless, a reason why the advert might have deliberately used this technique is because ‘Jeer pressure’ which is a hypothesized inhibiting effect of observing another person being ridiculed (Janes & Olson, 2000) has been shown to affect conformity. In an experiment  by Janes and Olson (2000) participants observed videotapes containing either; other- ridiculing humour (a comedian telling a joke directed at an unseen person’s physical appearance, e.g., “His acne was so bad as a teenager we used to call him ‘pizza face’ ”) or self-ridiculing humour, non-ridiculing humour or no humour. In order to test conformity, participants were then given four cartoon strips to rate for funniness on a scale from 1 to 7. On each page containing a cartoon there were two other ratings. Results showed that participants in the other-ridiculing humour condition were more conforming than the participants in the other conditions as they were more likely to agree with the two other ratings. The explanation for this is that other-ridicule appears to make observers aware of their own vulnerability to ridicule and rejection which consequently enhances awareness and can limit subsequent behaviour.  This advert makes salient to viewers that they also could be rejected on the basis of not being ‘a real man’ which could lead them to conform and buy the snickers chocolate bar in order to ‘get some nuts’ and prove that they are man enough. Nevertheless, this doesn't necessarily prove to be the case as many found the advert offensive.

Lastly, the advert is aimed at men and totally disregards women. Only viewers who are men could try to relate to the advert and therefore an important target audience is ignored. 

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