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.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Celebrities...They're Just Like Us!


           In a culture that obsesses and worships the latest movie stars, singers and models, we are equally excited by the idea that our heroes are also relatable. Entire sections of magazines are dedicated to pictures of celebrities doing ordinary tasks with headlines screaming that they really are just like us. But why do we get so excited to discover our favourite movie star buys the same cereal as us?  While we often don’t consider the influence celebrities have on our daily lives and decisions, advertisers are constantly exploiting this belief.

Celebrity endorsements are one of the most common marketing techniques and involve many persuasive tactics that we are often unaware of. Everyone from Katy Perry to Adam Levine has become a spokesperson for ProActiv and endorsed their line of acne treatments. As an acne treatment medication, ProActiv is one of the most well known, which can likely be attributed to these countless celebrity endorsements. But why are celebrity endorsements so convincing?

One of the main reasons these ads hold significant persuasive powers is simply the level of attractiveness of the individuals endorsing the product. It is no secret that celebrities often rely on their looks and advertisers take advantage of this. Research has proven that physical attractiveness is often synonymous with higher levels of intelligence and trustworthiness and overall, increases a person’s level of interest (Langlois et al. 2000). Chaikin (1979) demonstrated that attractive individuals were able to persuade a general student population to a higher degree compared to their ‘unattractive’ counterparts. The ProActiv advertisements use these biases to convince the public of Adam Levine’s trustworthy status in order to persuade the consumer to purchase the product, all while making an association using general classical conditioning. The advertisements appear to link physical attractiveness with the use of their product and hope to sway individuals with the subliminal message that use of the product will result in you looking like Adam Levine.

Another advantage to the use of celebrity endorsers is their persuasive powers as a result of their status. Celebrities are adored by millions of fans and can be seen as figures that individuals look up to. As a result, individuals tend to be influenced by celebrities through imitation (Pratkanis, 2007).  Going back to the title of the blog, the main selling point within the ProActiv commercials is the similarities between these celebrities and the average person. Adam Levine stresses the point that even though he is a famous rock star, he still gets acne, just like you! This helps to make him more relatable to the average consumer and research has proven that individuals who we identify with more easily persuade us.  We are more likely to be persuaded by a person with a similar appearance, beliefs, or values (Burger et al., 2004). What sets the ProActiv commercials apart is their emphasis on reminding the consumer that these celebrities are similar to us, which is why we can trust their opinion.

 The next time you see a celebrity advertisement claiming they are “just like you", remember: only one of you is getting paid to use the product!

Emily Winters


Burger, J. M., Messian, N., Patel, S., del Prado, A., & Anderson, C. (2004). What a
coincidence! The effects of incidental similarity on compliance.Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin30(1), 35-43.

Chaiken, S. (1979). Communicator physical attractiveness and persuasion.Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology37(8), 1387.

Langlois, J. H., Kalakanis, L., Rubenstein, A. J., Larson, A., Hallam, M., & Smoot, M.
(2000). Maxims or myths of beauty? A meta-analytic and theoretical review. Psychological bulletin126(3), 390.

Pratkanis, A.R. (2007). Social influence analysis: An index of tactics. The science of
social influence: Advances and future progress, 30-33.

1 comment:

  1. Well done Emily, a thorough explanation of the celebrity effect.


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