This series of posters are part of a campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer prevention by the Breast Cancer Foundation, Singapore. It uses body art painting to beautifully illustrate on the female body a typical women’s daily worries (e.g. pimples, bad hair day, butt). Subsequently, with a thought-provoking question of “Are you obsessed with the right things”, they present the importance of regular breast checks by blatantly stating: “The difference between a pimple and breast cancer is that of life and death”.
A visual metaphor is used here. The advertisement merges the elements of both seemingly different concepts through the common association point of ‘body obsessions’. The body art of a girl ‘squeezing’ her pimple is compared to another visual element, the breasts of the women, creating a composite image. Thus, allowing the audience to derive the alternative meaning (actual message of breast cancer) of the apparent image. Metaphors as such constrains, focuses and guides information processing to the target details and suggests solutions to resolve the underlying issue at hand (Sopory & Dillard, 2002) – being obsessed with the right things and getting a breast cancer screening. Particularly, a visual metaphor, a form of ‘vivid appeal’, is emotionally interesting; concrete and image-provoking; and immediate (Nisbett and Ross, 1980). This makes the message more compelling and provocative. Thus far, we see how the advertisement has controlled and established a favourable climate for influence (I.e. ‘Landscaping’; Pratkanis, 2007).
The primary persuasion technique used is rhetoric questioning. It has been found that rhetorical questions arouse uncertainty and motivates more intensive processing of message content than statements, especially in strong messages (Bunkrant & Howard, 1984). Through the visual metaphor, a point of similarity has been created: Obsession. More importantly, the magnitude of obsession. The open-endedness of this rhetorical question complements the visual metaphor, allowing room for comparison, rethinking and redefining of what the essential and trivial things are in life. Often, the magnitudes of each obsession (pimples, breast cancer) is incongruent with the corresponding level of importance placed on them (high, low). This mismatch of creates contrast (Cialdini, 2006), and evocatively presents a life and death situation which the audience can resolve themselves if only they know what are the necessary issues. As such, the audience successfully derives the intended answer to the question “Are you obsessed about the right things?”
Burnkrant, R. E., & Howard, D. J. (1984). Effects of the use of introductory rhetorical questions versus statements on information processing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 1218- 1230.
Cialdini, R. B. (2007) Influence: The psychology of persuasion. New York: HarperCollins.
Nisbett, R. E., & Ross, L. (1980). Human Inference: Stategies and shortcomings of social judgment. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Pratkanis, A. R. (2007). The science of social influence: Advances and future progress. New York: Psychology Press.
Soropy, P., & Dillard, J. P. (2002). The persuasive effects of metaphor: A meta-analysis. Human Comunication Research, 28, 382- 419.
Li Ying Fong