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.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013



This advertisement was originally made for the WWF (World Wildlife Foundation) to educate people as to how “powerful” our planet is. Subsequently, the WWF rejected it as it was far too offensive, yet it was still publicised with their logo still on it.

The meaning behind this advert is undoubtedly true. That is, our planet is hugely powerful and can have detrimental effects for many people. This is evident in the many natural disasters (tsunamis, earthquakes, etc) that occur each year, killing and injuring thousands of people, destroying buildings and homes, uprooting trees and so on.  But the way in which the company who designed this advert goes about illustrating this point is completely idiotic and brainless. It uses two very emotional and prominent events from recent times, the twin towers disaster and the tsunami from 2005. Both of these events killed thousands of people, with this advert using the tag line ‘that’s 100 times more deaths’ when referring to how many people died as a result of the tsunami compared with 9/11. Although this may be a fact, it is wholly disrespectful and truly offensive to many people whose lives where effected by these tragedies.

This persuasive technique is called ‘message fit’, whereby the company who designed the advert has linked their arguments about the planet (how powerful it is) to the experiences of the public audience (9/11 and the 2005 tsunami). This technique was demonstrated by Snyder & DeBono (1985) when they looked at the differences between high and low self-monitoring people in their judgements of advertisements. In this experiment they manipulated an advert for Canadian Club whisky by changing the slogan that accompanied it. In one condition the slogan read ‘you’re not just moving in, you’re moving up’ (image orientated condition), and in the second condition it read ‘when it comes to great taste, everyone draws the same conclusion’ (product quality orientated condition). After participants had seen the adverts, the filled out a comparison questionnaire, with questions such as ‘which advert is better?’ along with the Self-Monitoring Scale. Results showed that high self-monitoring individuals preferred the image orientated advert, whereas low self-monitoring individuals preferred the product quality orientated advert. Thus showing that the way an advert is presented attracts different types of individuals.


Synder, M., & DeBono, K. G. (1985). Appeals to Image and Claims About Quality: Understanding the Psychology of Advertising. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 3, 586-597.

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