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.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Cadbury Bournville




This advert for Cadbury Bournville is ineffective in persuading viewers to buy the product because it develops a negative attitude towards the brand. While trying to portray itself as a premium chocolate made from the finest cocoa beans, the ad fails to demonstrate the main point, by coming across as heartless, as it shows poor farmers dependent on the verdict of a higher authority for their livelihood. Also, while showing how beans are chosen carefully, they show the social rejection of a small bean that cries on being rejected. This causes empathy and pity on the viewer’s side, and fails to create a positive emotion towards the product.

A study by Masten, Eisenberger, Pfeifer and Dapretto (2010) involved participants observing an individual being socially excluded, and then were asked to write emails to the individual later. The emails were then rated for prosocial behaviour (e.g. helping, comforting). Observing exclusion activated regions involved in mentalizing (i.e., dorsomedial prefrontal cortex), particularly among highly empathic individuals. Additionally, individuals who displayed more activity in affective, pain-related regions during observed exclusion subsequently wrote more prosocial emails to excluded victims. Overall findings suggest that when people witness social exclusion in their daily lives, some may actually ‘feel the pain’ of the victims and act more prosocially toward them as a result. Thus, viewing this advert may lead to a positive attitude for the socially rejected ‘bean’, and a negative attitude towards the ‘oppressor’- which in this case is the chocolate brand.

Thus, while the message about using the finest cocoa is positive, the brand should use a different approach to convey it, such as repeating this fact constantly during the advert, and not by portraying a small bean crying because it is not good enough to be a Bournville.


C.L. Masten., N.I. Eisenberger., J.H. Pfeifer., & M. Dapretto. (2010). Witnessing peer rejection during early adolescence: Neural correlates of empathy for experiences of social exclusion. Social Neuroscience, 5, 496-507.

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