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 1, 2013

Wake the F*** up!





This is the pro- Obama campaign ad titled ‘Wake the F*** up!’ starring Samuel L Jackson. It is reported as a shocking advert as it unleashes a profane rant on apathetic voters. In the startling video, the famous fowled-mouthed actor confronts the sleepy members of a family with vulgar rhymes that imposes them to become active in the president's re-election campaign. The Republican Mitt Romney has been attacked in the advert, which is used as a propaganda technique along with the tireless repetition of the phrase wake the f*** up. An informed citizen would usually form opinions on political issues and candidates thinking critically and understanding the propaganda political campaigns entail. However, in this day and age political propaganda becomes more complex as strategies including celebrity endorsements and effective language enhance its effect on public opinion.

Studies suggest bad language used thoughtfully, in a way that actually strengthens the impact of a message, elevates a piece of an ad. Wake the f*** up are undoubtedly powerful words repeatedly used in this particular ad. The repeated phrase has been used in the ad combining rhymes without changing its meaning or the message the advertisement is meant to deliver. Swearing is incorporated in an ad to slipstream its emotional impact and gain attention. It is also a form of taboo violation and as such it attracts attention. (McQuarrie & Mick, 1996).

This advert addresses all ages, as the girl is shown to deliver the message first to her parents, brother and finally grandparents. This technique acts to effectively enhance the impact of the advert as it appeals to a wider target audience.

It is a widely known phenomenon that the effectiveness of an advert increases if there is a celebrity endorsing the product, this is considered to be true in the political realm as well. The most effective strategy used in election campaigns recently is to enhance the role of celebrities in the political scene.
Brubacker (2007) studied the role of celebrity endorsements in 2004 and 2008 campaign and analyzed the effect of it on the voters. 364 college students took part in the study during the 2004 campaign and 253 in 2008. Firstly, the participants were asked to complete self-administered surveys, asking to provide demographic information, political affiliation and voting intention (which candidate they are going to vote for). The participants were also given a scale ranging from option 1 strongly disagree to 7 strongly agree, to indicate their likelihood of voting for the candidates and their political interest. The endorsements chosen in the study represented a broad range of celebrities equally across candidates, for example, George Clooney for Barack Obama and Ben Affleck for John Kerry. After each endorsements the participants were asked to rate each candidate on the 7- point Likert-type scale of favorability with a range of 1 to 7, from much less favorable to much more favorable. They were also asked to rate on the Likert- scale whether the endorsement affected their voting opinion.

The results indicate that the young adults aged 18-24 were influenced by celebrity endorsements and their ratings of favorability of the candidate increased when a celebrity they liked supported him. It was found that the participant’s level of agreement with political statements made by celebrities increased with their adoration. These celebrities take part in election campaigns, voicing their support for a particular candidate and if voters identify with the celebrities, the votes for that particular candidate increase (Payne, Hanlon & Tworney 2007).



Brubacker, J. (2011). The Third-person effects of Celebrity Endorsements on College Voters in the 2004 and 2008 Presidential Elections. American Communication Journal, 13 (2), 4-22.

McQuarrie, E. F. and D. G. Mick (1996). "Figures of Rhetoric in Advertising Language." Journal of Consumer Research, 22 (4), 424-438.

Payne, J. G., Hanlon, J.P., & Tworney, D.P. (2007). Celebrity spectacle influence on young voters in the 2004 presidential campaign. American Behavioral Scientist, 50, 1239-1246.


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