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

Too much Source . . Too little Substance!

The above advert for hair care product L’oreal Shampoo relies too heavily on the source of celebrity credibility that is Jennifer Aniston and pseudoscience to sell its message.


The advert, although most likely effective to a certain extent does seem to miss the mark in several of the concepts it has tried to embody and certainly leaves me with an uneasy feeling / question of whether or not I have been adequately persuaded. Again the advert is aiming to utilise the quality of the product to sell itself. Jennifer Aniston reassures audiences, “trust me it’s L’oreal.” And to trust her in what she’s saying about the efficacy of the product and to this extent the advert concentrates on the efficacy of the product, how well it works, its ability as a shampoo. The unique selling point of the product is that is has twice the vitamins of average high street shampoo products which act on the hair. They support this with a brief pseudoscientific explanation and at best ‘lay’ graphic representation of the ‘vitamins’ at work on hair follicles. The explanation of how the product actively effects hair follicles is sub-standard and far from scientific, not aided by the fact that Jennifer Aniston highlights the potential scientific quality of the piece which the sentence “here comes the science”. The audience is almost left with the thought, “where is the science”.


Weiner, Laforge and Goolsby (1990) found that when the figure providing source credibility had something to gain from the advert that they had little effect on the persuasiveness of the advert. In affect the above adverts seems to have observed this well. It relies purely on Jenifer Aniston’s testimony of the product, she is simply sharing a hair-care secret again with seemingly nothing to gain. In fact she rarely refers to the viewer and instead focuses on herself: ‘I’ve got a new relationship, a shampoos taken a shine to me’, ‘just the way I like it’ ‘can’t believe I just said that’, ‘trust me’, ‘I love it’, ‘I think I’m worth it’. Very little pressure is put on viewers to actually buy the product and instead works on the hope that we empathise and appreciate her representation of the product (Friestad & Wright, 1994) and seek to actively act on our own interest into the efficacy of the product.


Jennifer Aniston is not an expert source in terms of hair care, she has to most peoples’ knowledge little knowledge herself beyond a lay person of the chemical processes involved in shampoo. Artz and Tybout (1999) found that only expert sources are expected to quantify their messages and non-experts are not. Disparity in such, i.e. non-expert sources quantifying their message, can lead to a less persuasive source of influence as we doubt the knowledge they may have on the topic. To this extent the use of a pseudoscientific section is confusing. We do not expert Jennifer Aniston as such to support her promotion of the efficacy of the product, especially with a pseudoscientific clip that for all intent and purposes, misses the mark. Again according to Friestad and Wright’s (1994) Persuasion Knowledge Model, we just want to rely on her testimony as an individual, trust her in her promotion of the product.


Where this advert falls down therefore is a miss-marriage of two concepts. The advert may work better if we were either presented with a scientific account of the efficacy of the product or a purely individual, empathetic account of the product. Having said this it may be dangerous to solely rely on either of these alone.

Artz, N., & Tybout, A. M. (1999). The moderating impact of quantitative information on the relationship between source credibility and persuasion: A persuasion knowledge model interpretation. Marketing Letters, 10(1), 51-63.

Friestad, M., & Wright, P. (1994). The persuasion knowledge model: How people cope with persuasion attempts. Journal of consumer research, 1-31.

Wiener, J. L., LaForge, R. W., & Goolsby, J. R. (1990). Personal communication in marketing: An examination of self-interest contingency relationships. Journal of Marketing Research, 227-231.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting, and clever to spot the mismatch in science and celebrity.


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