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.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Creative Frontline Advert

This is an advertisement by Frontline promoting their flea and tick spray for dogs. There is a huge picture of a dog on the floor of a building. With the people walking around, a picture of a dog with loads of fleas and ticks appears. This is a very creative advert.

The main persuasion technique used in the advert is creativity. This advert is different from other ordinary adverts as it needs other people to get involved in order to show the message. The levels of divergence and creativity greatly affect consumer processing that creative adverts are able to attract more attention than non-creative adverts. One of the reasons is that creativity unique to an advertising context or perceived as exceptional will be noticed. Unique advertisements in general are learned and remembered better than ordinary commercials (DeLozier 1976, p. 65).

The theory of Contrast effect suggests that divergent ads are different and novel so at the most basic level a contrast effect should be created. This contrast is produced via the advert’s divergent, which makes it stand out from other adverts and thus attracts pre-attentive processing (such as orientation reactions) where the consumer notices and directs processing resources to the advert (Smith & Yang, 2004).

In the study of Altsech (1997), the effectiveness of creative adverts was examined. In Study 1, in-depth interviews were conducted to explore consumers' implicit theories of creativity in advertising. Results indicate that people perceive originality and appropriateness to be the components of creativity. In Study 2, a scale was developed to measure advertising creativity, consisting of originality and appropriateness subscales. In Study 3, creative adverts recalled by the subjects were shown to evoke a greater number of originality-related statements than non-creative adverts. Creative adverts (those high in both originality and appropriateness) were found to elicit more favorable attitude towards the advert, brand attitude, and purchase intent, as well as higher brand recall.

Altsech, M. B. (1997). The assessment of creativity in advertising and the effectiveness of creative advertisements. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, , 3585-3585.
DeLozier, M. Wayne (1976). The Marketing Communications Process, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company.
Smith, R. E., & Yang, X. (2004). Toward a general theory of creativity in advertising: Examining the role of divergence.Marketing Theory, 4(1-2), 31-58.

An Inconvenient Truth

In 2006, Al Gore released a documentary film, called 'An Inconvenient Truth,' in which he outlined the dangers of global warning, aiming to educate the public about the climate crisis and the potential consequences of our behaviour.

It was considered to be a very influential documentary and throughout his presentation he used many persuasive techniques to change the opinions of his audience.  One way in which he does this, is by arousing a feeling of fear into the public.  With the use of shocking images that are believed to have exaggerated the extent of the problem, he makes his audience believe the situation is far worse and more real than anyone imagined.  The use of ‘fear appeal’ is argued to be successful in changing attitudes when the plea invokes fear and outlines a plausible way to overcome this fear by changing behaviour; in this instance, by doing something as simple as recycling (Pratkanis, 2007).  As well as arousing fear, the photos Gore used shocked and stunned audiences and a study by Dahl, Frankenberger & Manchanda (2003) found that using shock tactics in an advert enhances attention, increases memory, and more often leads to a change in behaviour.

Gore also uses guilt to try and change the public’s attitude and behaviour by emphasizing how this was an avoidable problem that was caused by our irresponsible behaviour.  Therefore, it is our duty to stop global warming from getting even worse.  Even the trailer for the movie uses the guilt tactic with the statement ‘If you love your planet, if you love your children, you have to see this film.’  This implies that if you do not watch the film and listen to its message, you do not love your children or care about their survival or the planet they live in, thereby laying on a ‘guilt-trip’ if they do not watch the film.

Gore also uses a scientific basis to support his argument and draws inferences from peer-reviewed scientific articles.  He had previously been campaigning for a change in behaviour to prevent climate change, and with his knowledge on the subject, he presented himself as an expert-unknowing public altercast.  Research has shown that when an ‘expert’ presents a message, it is more likely to be accepted as the truth as the general public feel they have inferior knowledge on the subject.  Moore (1921) found that the opinion of an expert was more influential than that of an average individual in causing a change in a decision.

One of the most effective techniques Gore used was inducing a misleading inference in regards to the relationship between global warming and hurricane Katrina.  The destruction caused by Katrina was still prominently in the forefront of most Americans’ minds and Gore reminded them about the devastation it caused and explained how global warming will cause devastation on a much greater scale.  He implies that global warning was the cause of the hurricane without explicitly saying so, as there is no evidence to support this claim – but the mere implication plants the idea into the minds of his audience, making his technique effective in influencing a change in behaviour as the public would want to prevent anything that might bring about another ‘Katrina.’  Research supporting this technique has been found in a study conducted by Harris (1977) as participants were unable to discriminate between explicitly stated claims about products and claims that were only implied.  Therefore, consumers falsely assumed a relationship existed between two statements when they were presented together.  

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, September 43, 268-280.

Harris, R. J. (1977). Comprehension of pragmatic implications in advertising. Journal of Applied Psychology, 62, 603-608.

Moore, H. T. (1921). The comparative influence of majority and expert opinion. American Journal of Psychology, 32, 16-20.

Pratkanis (2007). The science of social influence: Advances and future progress. Psychology Press.

Glamorous, Elegant, Feminine

This is an advertisement by Coco Chanel introducing her very first perfume "Chanel No.5" in 1937. She herself represented the first spokesperson of this perfume. Her glamorous and elegant's image became the icon of this perfume. In 1954, people became even crazier when Marilyn Monroe told the press all she wore to bed was 'a few drops of Chanel No.5'. This advert successfully made almost every lady to dream to have a Chanel No.5 in lifetime.

The technique they use in here is the physically attractive-admirer alter cast. 
The celebrities in the advert establishes a prestigious position that people 
will admire and desire to be one of them. This desire to identify with the 
beautiful result in a  positive persuasive effect.

Reingen & Kernan (1993) carried out a study on physical attractiveness in interpersonal influence. The experiment first used a 7 point attractive-unattractive scale to select attractive and unattractive people's faces from pile of photographs. These selected photographs then labelled as salesperson selling different products. Participants were then rate how likely they would buy from these different salesperson. Results showed attractive salesperson tended to more effective in selling.  

 (Godfrey Leung)
Kernan, J.B., & Reingen, P.H. (1993) . Social perception and interpersonal influence: Some consequences of the physical attractiveness stereotype in a personal selling setting. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2 , 25-38

Children See. Children Do.

This is a television advertisement which was aired in Australia a few years ago by NAPCAN. This video showed how children learned from their parents’ socially undesirable behaviors and it tried to persuade parents to make their influences positive. The most important persuasive tactics in this advert is to create anticipatory regret to the target parents. 

Regret is a negative emotion that is elicited when our decision may not work out as we want it to. By anticipating such regret, we will attempt to minimize self-blame. This can be done by either avoiding the behavior that causes regret, or carrying out the behavior so we will not regret for not doing so. Recent research showed that anticipatory regret can be a motivator for playing the National Lottery (Briggs & Wolfson, 2002). In their experiment, random lottery players filled in the questionnaires which were placed near lottery outlets in two major supermarkets. In the questionnaire, participants were asked about the intentions to play the National Lottery. Participants were also asked about the amount and pattern of lottery play, participation in other forms of gambling, and a range of attitudes regarding the lottery. Eighty-five percent of the questions took the form of Likert-format scales, with 1-5 range. The table below showed the percentage of agreeing the reasons of playing Lottery. Their results found that the most popular reason for playing lottery was ‘I’d be upset if my regular number came up and I didn’t have a ticket.’ This result showed that anticipatory regret can cause a certain behavior which prevent us from experiencing regret.

In this advert, the negative behaviors of parents (e.g. smoking, domestic violence, disrespects towards others, etc) are repeatedly shown, each followed by their children imitating their parents’ behaviors. This can elicit regret emotion to target parents who may have carried out such behaviors before. Target parents may be successfully persuaded to behave properly as a good model for their children.


Briggs, P., & Wolfson, S. (2002). Locked into gambling: Anticipatory regret as a motivator for playing the National Lottery. Journal of Gambling Studies, 18(1), 1-17

Reality sucks

This print advert from Utopolis Group of cinemas in Belgium uses different persuasion techniques. Firstly, it makes use of association. The posture of the man and the woman was linked to the famous scene in the movie Titanic, which is still considered by many to be one of the best movies. Moreover, it makes use of humour and metaphor by showing a bird hitting the woman who was posing on the lines of Titanic. It is supposed to be a romantic moment but it turns out to be a clumsy one. The combination of this humorous picture and the words ‘Reality sucks’ suggests that as reality is not always perfect, movies play a major part in relieving stress and tension in our daily lives. 

Humorous message was found to have a positive effect on message recall, attitude towards the advertised brand, and thus, the effectiveness of the advert. In a study by Zhang and Zinkhan (1991), participants were shown TV ads for soft drinks which had been previously ailed on network television. Participants were told that they would be watching some music videos and would be later asked to indicate their musical preferences. There were two levels of humour in the ads: an ad that contained humour and an ad that had no humour. The ads were pretested to ensure effectiveness of the humour manipulation. Both versions of the ad contained similar information about a product, and the difference was the inclusion of the humour stimulus. The commercials were imbedded in 30 minutes of pre-recorded music videos. After watching the commercials, participants completed a questionnaire containing three dependent variables: brand attitude, perceived humour, and ad recall. MANOVA showed that there was a humour main effect (F = 19.78, p < 0.0001), supporting the hypothesis that humorous message has a positive effect on message recall, attitude towards the advertised brand, and therefore, the effectiveness of the ad.

Zhang, Y., & Zinkhan, G. M. (1991). Humor in television advertising: The effects of repetition and social setting. In R. H. Holman, & M. R. Solomon (Eds.), Advances in consumer research (pp. 813–818). Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research.

Skittles - Taste the Rainbow

This is an advertisement launched by Skittles in 2011, taking the “Taste the Rainbow” concept to the next level. In this advertisement, it first asks you to put your finger on the screen, toward a cat’s face while it licks your fingers. However, the cat is later switched to a guy dressed up as a cat. This content may be enough to give you nightmares.

Skittles’s famous advertising slogan “Taste the Rainbow” urges consumers to experience a cross-sensory perception – to taste colours that can literally only be seen. Association has been a common persuasive technique used in many advertisements. In this case, it used the concept of synethesia, meaning “joined perception”, and associated the taste of Skittles with the sight of rainbow colours (and also with a sense of touch).  In a study by Nelson and Hitchon in 1999, they found that cross-sensory advertisements are perceived to be pleasanter, more novel and better advertisements than literal advertisements. In their study, 112 University students viewed a cross-sensory and a literal advert one at a time and have to assess their pleasantness and novel qualities. One of the stimuli used in the experiment was an advertisement of the Radio Station. While the literal advert consist only the auditory sense (e.g. Radio is full of sound), the cross-sensory advert combines both auditory and visual senses (e.g. Radio is full of colour). The participants also completed a 7-item comparison measure indicating their preference for one of the two advertisements on various criteria, including questions such as, “Which ad did you prefer” and “Which ad do you think would be more successful?”

Unsurprisingly, this advertisement also used humor. Humor has been supported by many previous researches as a persuasion technique (French, 1998; Strick, Van Baaren, Holland, & Van Knippenberg, 2009).

French, C. (1998). “Does a smile sell the product?” The Globe and Mail, 17, 21-32.

Nelson, M. R., & Hitchon, J. C. (1999). Loud tastes, colored fragrances, and scented sounds: How and when to mix the senses in persuasive communications. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 76(2), 354-372.

Strick, M., Van Baaren, R.B., Holland, R.W., & Van Knippenberg, A. (2009). Humor in advertisements enhances product liking by mere association. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 15, 35-45.

Cartier- Love Day.

This advertisement by the well-known jewelry brand Cartier uses various persuasion techniques. First of all, they take advantage of the scarcity of what they are selling, gold and diamonds.
A recent study suggests that enhanced value perception leads to purchase likelihood not only because of the scarcity itself but also because it increases the perceived influence of us in others. German undergraduate students were the subjects of the study, in which printed images and a questionnaire were used to test the hypothesis. The researcher used a printed advertisement by the popular company “H&M”. In that campaign the company sold items designed by the famous designer Karl Lagerfeld, in a limited supply.  The subjects were presented with a picture of the designer and a statement. In the scarcity condition, the statement was complemented with the phrase “Because of the limited edition, supplies are only available for a short time”, whereas in the non-scarcity condition the phrase that went with the statement was “Presently there are sufficient items in stock.” After the exposure to the advertisements, the subjects filled a questionnaire. The results were that the image with scarcity appeals leads to enhanced value perception and therefore increases purchase intention. This effect is found to be mediated by the perceived influence on self relative to others (Eisend, M., 2008). 
In this advertisement, this effect is reinforced by the use of words like “unique”. 

Another technique used is commitment, asking “how far would you go for love” is like asking how much you love your partner or if you love him/her enough. Using emotional words helps orienting the consumer’s attention towards what is being sold.  Researchers studied how orienting responses on advertisements with high emotional elements influence awareness of both the advertisement and the brand. They tested their predictions in a busy newspaper environment in which the subjects were focused on reading an article. Then, high emotional single words were embedded in the headlines of peripheral advertisements. The responses were compared to those to advertisements with less emotional words.  The results demonstrated that emotional ad content is identified pre-attentively and has the ability to attract attention from a primary task (Nielsen, J.H., Shapiro, A.S. & Mason, H.C., 2010).

The background color and the fire used in the design of the advertisement are symbols of passion, which is also being used to remind  potential consumers of their partners, evoking passionate feelings, and therefore persuading them to buy a gift that symbolizes those feelings.

Eisend, M.(2008). Explaining the Impact of Scarcity Appeals in Advertising.The Mediating Role of Perceptions of Susceptibility.Journal of advertising, 37(3), 33-40.

Nielsen, J.H., Shapiro, A.S. & Mason, H.C.(2010). Emotionality and Semantic Onsets: Exploring Orienting Attention Responses in Advertising. Journal of marketing research, 47, 1138-1150.

Smart, the less polluting car of the world

Above is a car advert, as hinted by the window wiper in the image. The distinctively different air quality shown in the two blocks aimed to promote the awareness of air pollution, contributed by the use of private transport. The caption at the top right corner however delivered a very clear message to its audience that Smart's cars are less polluting compared to all other cars. 

This advert used two persuasion techniques to achieve its aim. Firstly, the selective presentation of information (Smart, the less polluting car of the world, from just €7,990) would bias decision making of consumers. As no information was given on the amount of carbon emission from either Smart or cars from other brands, consumers who do not have a genuine awareness of environmental protection are subjected to a lower motivation to search for the real information. Therefore, consumers are 'forced' to believe what the advert says. 

More importantly, Carroll's (1978) study have shown the power of imagination. Before the 1976 presidential election, subjects were asked to imagine either Carter or Ford winning the elect. They were then asked to predict the outcome of the election using a scale from 0 (sure Carter will win) to 100 (sure Ford will win). Subjects who imagined that Carter had won were more certain that he eventually would, similarly those who imagined Ford had won were more certain that he would later win. Thus, providing an easily imagined future (clean and fresh environment) in driving Smart is likely in increase drivers' incentive of buying Smart rather than other cars.

Carroll, J. S. (1978). The effect of imagining an event on expecations for the event: an interpretation in terms of the availability heuristic. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology36, 1501-1511.

Mycharity: water 
Mycharity: water is
a non-profit organization that brings clean and safe drinking water in developing nations.

An underlying technique used throughout the website to get people to ‘join the pledge ’is based on emotional appeal, in particular existential guilt. This is experienced when one is more fortunate than others, which results in feelings of empathy. For example: ‘They didn't choose to be born into a village where the only source of water is a polluted swamp. And we didn't choose to be born in a country where even the homeless have access to clean water and a toilet’. This quotation emphasises that it is by chance that we are privileged and they are not, and so the reader is persuaded to sympathise.  

Emotional arousal can motivate behaviour especially if negative-arousal/ dissonance has been evoked, as the natural response is to avoid such feelings of discomfort.  To counteract this discomfort a solution should be presented. In this case, a large button which states ‘give to clean water’ takes the user to a donation page, providing a ‘solution’ to the reader for the dissonance felt. The intention is that the reader is so preoccupied in getting rid of this discomfort that issues within the message may not be critically analysed.

Griffin,  Babin, Attaway, & Darden (1993) presented participants with a charity appeal about a man who lost his vision and was unable to pay off an accumulated sum of $250,000 in medical bills due to his inability to work. The appeal asked for donations to assist his medical bills and living expenses.  Participants who rated feelings of empathy stronger than distress were more likely to give donations. It appears feelings of empathy compared to feeling of distress are more effective in creating intentions to make a charitable donation.

Griffin, M., Babin, B. J., Attaway, J. S., &. Darden W. R. (1993) . Hey You, Can Ya Spare Some Change? the Case of Empathy and Personal Distress As Reactions to Charitable Appeals. Advances in Consumer Research, 20,(1), 508-514.

Lewis, M. (1993). The emergence of human emotions. In M. Lewis & J. M. Haviland (Eds.), Handbook of emotions (pp.223-235). New York: Guildford Press. 

Anadin- nothing acts faster?

These are two of Anadin's ads. Anadin is a pain reliever sold in the UK and Ireland. There are several different types of Anadin, all containing either paracetamol, ibubrofen and/or aspirin.

The tagline "Nothing acts faster" is a misleading one. While it is true that nothing acts faster, the tagline implies that Anadin is the fastest. All pain relievers that use the same ingredients have the same speed of action. This is an example of misleading inference. It puts Anadin in a more favourable light compared to other similar brands.

The message is persuasive for two reasons. Some message receivers are likely to take the peripheral route to attitude change as choosing a pain killer brand is of low personal relevance. Other message receivers might take the central route to attitude change as the ads provide detailed arguments as to why Anadin is so good. The best of ads make use of both routes.

The second reason why the ad is persuasive is due to the misleading inference. In one study, researchers had participants in three ad claim conditions were they were exposed to the same advertisement, bar a small difference. In the strong marketing leading condition, participants read “In 2002 (over the last five years),
doctors prescribed PRIDON more than any other brand of prescription pain reliever".In the moderate condition, the time length was changed to 6 months. In the control condition, the simply read  “Prescription
medicine for the treatment of severe pain.” Participants then had to rate how effective they thought the painkiller was on its own and compared to other pain killers and how much they thought doctors would prefer it. The scores on all 3 dependent measures were higher for the strong ad claim condition (Mitra, Swasy, Aikin, 2006).

Mitra, A., Swasy, J., & Aikin, K. (2006). How Do Consumers Interpret Market Leadership Claims in Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs? Advances in Consumer Research, 33, 381-388.

National Geographic Channel

This was produced by the National Geographic Channel in order to encourage the audience to watch their channel.  The advert is very simple with interesting facts and makes you want to read to the end.

This advert uses the negativity effect.  It states that “you only have one fifth of your life actually to live”.   This is shocking to the audience and can make them have a negative view on life as the adverts tells them they are using four fifths of their lives doing the other mundane tasks stated. 

Research has shown that messages which produce a negative effect are more persuasive and influential compared to those which result in positive effects (Anderson, 1965; Hamilton & Huffman, 1971).  

Rozin and Royzman (2001) proposed 4 types of negativity bias in their review of the negativity effect which can explain the greater importance of negative information.  One of these is “Negative Potency”.  The authors suggest that negative potency asserts that the negative event/information is subjectively more potent and of higher salience than its positive counterpart. With regard to this advert, it suggests that the negative information received in this advert, overrides the positive aspects and so people take more notice of the negative information of only having a fifth of life to live and thus should watch the National Geographic Channel.  Their review concluded that this tendency may be innate in humans.

Anderson, N. H. (1965). Averaging vs. adding as a stimulus-combination rule in impression formation. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70, 394-400.

Hamilton, D.L., & Huffman, L.F. (1971). Generality of impression-formation processes for evaluative and non-evaluative judgments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 20, 200-207.

Rozin, P. & Royzman, E. (2001). Negativity Bias, Negativity Dominance, and Contagion. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 4, 296-320.

"My Goodness, My Guinness!"

This poster was used throughout the Second World War to promote the drink Guinness. This is a very persuasive poster as it uses extremely simple language. The only phrase on the poster is “My goodness, My Guinness” which is very simple and fluent for a viewer to read. Research conducted by Atler and Oppenheimer found that people tend to have a greater attraction for words and phrases that are simple and fluent, the easier a word or phrase is to pronounce then the more valuable it seems to the consumer and thus, the more products are brought. They tested this by generated the names of company’s and stock that were either fluent or dis-fluent  and asked participants to estimate how they thought the future performance of these stocks/company’s would go (would they be successful or not). They found that participants predicted that the company’s and products with simpler names would do better and would outperform the ones with more complicated, harder to pronounce names (Goldstein et al, 2007). This is the same for posters and advertisements, ones with simpler words and phrases are rated and remembered more highly than those with complicated words and too much text, making this poster a success as more people will buy Guinness than competitive brands.

Too further this, the picture is very humorous as the man in the picture is more concerned about the plane crashing into his pint of Guinness than the fact that the plane IS going to crash. Using humor can certainly persuade people to buy a product as the poster sticks in their mind, especially during a difficult time like a war as it lifts people’s spirits and thus they would associate drinking Guinness with elating their mood and the amount sold would increase (Gelb & Zinkhan, 1986). 


Goldstein, N., Martin, S., & Cialdini, R. (2007). Yes! 50 secrets from the science of persuasion. London: Profile Books. 

Gelb, B. D., & Zinkhan, G. M. (1986). Humor and Advertising Effectiveness after Repeated Exposures to a Radio Commercial. Journal of Advertising, 15(2), 15-20.

Obesity is suicide

This advertisement was created by Brandon Knowlden for Northern Bariatric Surgery Institutes in Pennsylvania. The poster says “Obesity is suicide. But it doesn't have to end this way. Find out how bariatric surgery can help. The Northern Bariatric Surgery Institute.”. The advertisement employed an emotional approach which caused a fearful emotion about obesity in consumers by directly linking obesity and death.

Yan, Dillard and Shen (2012) found that fearful individuals were more likely to be persuaded by negative messages. In the study, participants were given Life Event Inventory which asked participants to remember and write one of very happy, very angry or very fearful life event to induce specific emotion (participants were randomly assigned one of the conditions). Then, participants were given one of two booklets containing information about Hepatitis C in a negative or positive way. Both positive and negative booklets contained basic information about Hepatitis C, but the positive information booklet contained a section called “benefit of taking a detection test for Hepatitis C”, and the section was titled “the cost of not taking a detection test” in the negative information booklet.  For the positive booklet, the section consisted of positive information about taking the detection test such as the number of people saved their life by taking the test, the positive outcomes of early detection and the fact many people take the test. For the negative booklet, the section contained negative information including the risk of transmission of Hepatitis C on other organs and the number of people who died because of the disease.  After participants read the booklet, they were given questionnaires which asked their attitude and intention to take the Hepatitis C detection test. The result showed that fearful participants were more favorable for the negative message, and they were more willing to take the detection test.

The advertisement created fear of obesity by mentioning the link between obesity and death. This fear might encourage people, especially fearful individuals, to lose weight, thus, it might attract more customers to Northern Bariatric Surgery Institute.

Yan, C., Dillard, J. P., & Shen, F. (2012). Emotion, Motivation, and the Persuasive Effects of Message Framing. Journal of Communication.

Dyson-This thing SUCKS

In this campaign, Dyson attempts to sell their range of vacuum cleaners, using at first what appear to be controversial statements in their advertisements to catch attention. The Large font causes people to first notice the ‘controversial statement’ and then finish reading the advert to understand that the message is not controversial, but in fact quite funny and positive. Research by Huhmann and Mott-Stenerson (2008) looked at the effect of controversial appeals on elaborative processing and brand message comprehension. The results found that controversial advertisement executions increase elaboration regardless of the levels of product involvement.

 The company used witty, self-deprecating humour by focusing on how context can change the meaning of their statements.  Without context the slogan ‘This Thing SUCKS’ would be viewed in a negative light and be considered a poor product. However, Dyson has cleverly realised that in the context of vacuum cleaners, the same statement is suddenly positive and speaks of how good the product is. Greengross and Miller (2008) looked at the effects of self-deprecating humour in a study with Sixty-four female and 32 male college student. Each participant listened to recordings of opposite-sex people who were described as having different levels of status, and who produced different types humor. They found that self-deprecating humor by high-status presenters (but not low-status presenters) increased long-term attractiveness for both sexes. Relating this back to Dyson, a quite well-known brand that people already associate with good quality, effectively uses this type of self-deprecating humor and makes them seem more attractive through a kind of failed modesty that is humorous in its wordplay.


Greengross, G. & Miller, G. F., (2008). Dissing oneself versus dissing rivals: Effects of status, personality, and sex on the short-term and long-term attractiveness of self-deprecating and other-deprecating humor. Evolutionary Psychology, 6(3), 393-408.

Huhmann, B. A. & Mott-Stenerson, B., (2008). Controversial advertisement executions and involvement on elaborative processing and comprehension. Journal of Marketing Communications, 14(4), 293-313.

Tooth Fairy?

This advert is for the Shark Reef Aquarium which is a tourist attraction in Las Vegas. The Shark Reef uses puns and jokes in their advertisements as a way of capturing attention. This is a particularly good idea in a place like Las Vegas where one is bombarded with attractions and events – this type of advert stands out, it’s different from the rest. They include an interesting fact in the advert – in this case that a Sand Tiger Shark goes through 50,000 teeth in a lifetime (apparently). This fun fact is further elaborated below in an interesting and entertaining but also educational way that appeals to visitors of all ages which is appropriate since the Shark Reef is a venue providing entertainment for the entire family.
According to the review by Weinberger and Gulas (1992), humor attracts attention and enhances liking of advertisements. What is more, related humor is superior to unrelated humor in its effectiveness. The nature of the product affects the appropriateness of a humor treatment and is more successful with existing than new products. Weinberger and Gulas (1992) also state that 94% of advertising practitioners see humor as an effective way to gain attention. Furthermore, 55% of advertising research executives believe humor to be superior to non-humor in gaining attention.
A study by Scott, Klein and Bryant (1990) investigated the persuasive effect of humor by employing an unusual behavioral measure of persuasion. They investigated three formats of advertising – humorous, non-humorous and control, and their impact on attendance to two types of events – social (a picnic) and business (a council meeting). The humorous promotion was a flier with a cartoon and a caption, the non-humorous flier included an illustration and no humor, the control included neither illustration nor humor. The dependent variables measured were attendance and observed expression of enjoyment. The researchers found that attendance at the social event (picnic) was greater among subjects who received the humorous advert than among those who received one of two other types of promotions. There was no such effect, however, for the business event.
Scott, C., Klein, D. M., & Bryant, J. (1990). Consumer Response to Humor in Advertising: A Series of Field Studies Using Behavioral Observation. Journal of Consumer Research, 16, 495-501.
Weinberger, M. G., & Gulas, C. S. (1992). The impact of humor in advertising: a review. Journal of Advertising, 21, 35-60.

The Unusual Advertising of the New Dodge Dart

The new Dodge Dart has been criticised for generating a lot of attention and excitement from the media, but being a complete disappointment in terms of sales and public enthusiasm. There are many technical reasons for this and many ideas the company has come up with to overcome it, and the first of these ideas was in the form of a pretty clever ad campaign and unique way of purchasing the car itself based on crowdfunding. Basically they took the idea of creating a registry, like people tend to do for weddings, and applied it to buying this car. You post your registry to your social networks like facebook and twitter and hope friends and family will contribute by buying you a part.

The tv campaign uses a lot of advertising techniques and is worth a watch but for this blog post I’d rather focus on the unique way they’ve chosen to advertise in a less obvious way; through people and social media. By utilising such different ways of relaying the product to potential consumers, the Dodge Dart is repeating it’s message over and over again. A positive relationship has been shown between the number of presentations of an advert and the attitude people hold towards it (McCullough and Ostrom, 1974).  The persuasive technique of multiple sources is also being used. Moore and Reardon (1987) found that there was a more positive attitude towards an advertisement when it was shown multiple times, but only if a strong argument was used.

By having people post about the car to social media sites, others may be influenced by the social consensus effect. If someone sees even just one friend posting a link to this registry they have created, the likelihood is someone else will comment or post him/herself about helping to buy this friend a car part, no matter how small. It will start to seem like a lot of people like this car and should make the person seeing this on their social site more positive about it. Reingen (1982) showed the effect of social consensus in a study whereby participants were shown a list of fictitious donators and their donations and then asked to donate money to a heart foundation charity. A control condition was used where subjects were only requested for the money and no fake donors were shown first. Reingen found participants were much more likely to donate money when others were thought to have donated first, and also that the likelihood of a donation increased as the number of donors shown first increased. Relating this back to the dodge dart, this shows why posting on social sites would be so important to the campaign. The more people thought to be interested in the car may in turn influence more people to be interested in it as well.

There are many more persuasive techniques I could write about this advertising campaign, like legitimizing paltry contributions by encouraging people to contribute as little as they like towards the car, and the pique technique because this is such a strange and novel idea. Now the company need to hope that even if this registry idea doesn’t sell many cars (you can cancel it and get the money donated back after a number of days of your choice), it generates a lot of discussion and attention for the product!

McCullough, J. L., & Ostrom, T. M., (1974). Repetition of highly similar messages and attitude change. Journal of Applied Psychology, 59(3), 395-397.

Moore, D. J., & Reardon, R., (1987). Source magnification: The role of multiple sources in the processing of advertising appeals. Journal of Marketing Research, 24(4), 412-417.

Reingen, P. H., (1982). Test of a list procedure for inducing compliance with a request to donate money. Journal of Applied Psychology, 67, 110-118.