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, March 15, 2013

Comic Relief

Zhang, Y. (1996). Responses to humorous advertising: The moderating effect of need for cognition. Journal of Advertising,25, 15-32.
Comic Relief uses many persuasive techniques in order to get people to donate their money. Every couple of years, Comic Relief raises millions of pounds for charity and literally helps to change lives. To do this they use a whole host of different techniques in order to persuade people to part with their well earned cash.

Humour is one of the tactics, as is the use of celebrities, mixed with guilt. Humour has been shown to increase overall favourable responses (Zhang, 1996) and can also induce a positive happy mood which can increase helping behaviour (Isen, Clark & Schwartz, 1976), and the use of celebrities uses the high status-admirer altercast which again has been shown to increase helping behaviour (Bickerman, 1971), exactly what Comic Relief wants.

The main technique that is used is guilt. Throughout the night films about the lives of people in both Africa and the UK are shown depitcting how hard their lives are when they shouldn't have to be that way. All it takes to changes lives is a small amount of money, so Comic Relief do all they can to convince others to help, and people will help as they want to reduce the guilt they feel (Carlsmith & Gross, 1969). Different templates from Goldberg, Mazursky & Solomon (1999) are also used, specifically the inverted consequences template as it shows what will continue to happen if you do not donate.

Another tactic used is flattery, as the presenters and other presenters constantly say how the entire night would not be possible without the help of the people at home who donate. This encourages those who have not already donated to donate as they want to be included in the flattery and feel good about themselves, and research has shown that people are more likely to comply to a request when they have been flattered (Hendrick, Borden, Giesen, Murray, & Seyfried, 1972).

Overall all these tactics combined help to persuade people to donate their money, and to great success. Over the last 25years Comic Relief has raised over £800 million and has helped changed lives for the better, and shows how persuasive techniques are used effectively in real life.


Bickerman, L. (1971). The effect of social status on the honesty of others. Journal of Social Psychology, 85, 87-92.
Carlsmith, J. M., & Gross, A. E. (1969). Some effects of guilt on compliance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 11, 232-239.Goldenberg, J., Mazursky, D., & Solomon, S. (1999). The fundamental templates of quality ads. Marketing Science, 18, 333-351.
Hendrick, C., Borden, R., Giesen, M., Murray, E. J., & Seyfried, B. A. (1972). Effectiveness of ingratiation tactics in a cover letter on mail questionnaire response. Psychonomic Science, 26, 349-351.
Goldenberg, J., Mazurksy, D., & Solomon, S. (1999). The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads. Marketing Science, 18, 333-351.
Isen, A. M., Clark, M., & Schwartz, M. F. (1976). Duration of the effect of good mood on helping: "Footprints on the sands of time". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34, 385-393.
Zhang, Y. (1996). Responses to humorous advertising: The moderating effect of need for cognition. Journal of Advertising,25, 15-32.




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