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


In 2007, Intel released a print advertisement for its Core 2 Duo processor featuring a white IT manager looking pretty pleased with himself; having successfully managed to multiply computing performance and maximise the power of his employees.

However, for some inexplicable reason, the employees are all depicted as black athletes, crouched as if starting a sprint race; but also appearing to bow down before the smug white man. This advert is offensive and also humiliating. Obviously, it has been criticised for being inadvertently racist, and was shamefully allowed to air. Public response to the controversy included opinions like “Not even a little bit racist. At worst, stereotypical. At best a completely crap ad”, and “This one is a shit storm waiting to happen. You could say it’s racist for so many reasons.” It is surprising that in this day and age, campaigns can still be insensitive and unintelligent and politically incorrect. Though this advert was campaigned five years ago, this company, like many others, is more than happy to play into fears and stereotypes associated with race.

Ads promoting everything from cars to after-school snacks have been laced with negative overtones. Whilst some are sneakily suggestive, others are almost unbelievably shameless like this one. Moreover, studies have found that shocking content in an advertisement significantly increases attention (Dahl, Frankenberger & Manchanda, 2003). For this reason, campaigns like this may be effective.

Many adverts, which are equally racist, have also found public viewing. There has been a study which would have been useful for Intel, as it is used by advertising agencies to understand which advertising is perceived as offensive by some people (Waller, 1984). This study analysed the response of the general public’s attitude of what is “offensive”. Society is complex, and the way some things are advertised are harmful. Intel apologised after recognising their mistake, and realised it was insensitive and insulting, and it was removed. Adverts will always shock; please not like this!

Dahl, D. W., Frankenberger, K. D., & Manchanda, R.V. (2003). Does It Pay to Shock? Reactions to Shocking and Nonshocking Advertising Content among University Students. Journal of Advertising Research, 43, 268-280.

Waller, D. S. (1984). Attitudes towards offensive advertising: an Australian study. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 16, 288-295.

1 comment:

  1. Nice work. So what did the Waller study determine was 'offensive'?


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