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.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Where a world of adventure awaits...

Disney land. The realm of adventure, fun and fairy tales. The concept that I have in my head of Disneyland has long been there, cultivated by stories that I have heard, my own experiences, and of course, the adverts. Typically an advert for Disneyland features a young child waking up to be told that they are off to the land where dreams come true, and then the advert ends on a zoomed in shot of their wonder-filled face.  However these new(ish) adverts are a little bit different. This advertising campaign features a variety of celebrities all posing as a range of Disney characters. There’s pop-singer Taylor Swift as Rapunzel, footballer David Beckham as a generic Prince Charming and BeyoncĂ© as Alice in Wonderland to name a few.

The photographs are beautifully shot by famous photographer Annie Leibovitz and the images are clear and vivid. Gonzalez et al (1988) demonstrated that vivid imagery can be a helpful tool when trying to sell a product. They found that when salesmen presented vivid descriptions of the product to their customers, then they were more likely to buy it. These adverts work on the same principle, as they present highly vivid images to their customers, which will hopefully lead to them going to the parks to experience their version of the vivid image, in this case, the ‘adventure’ or the feeling of being a princess. In these adverts, the vivid imagery technique has the added benefit of making the individual picture their own fairytale, which means that the advert is perfectly tailored towards them without Disney actually having to put any extra work into the advertising.

However it is not only the photograph that is working to sell the product in these adverts. The small tag lines use the idea that ‘imagery sells’ to promote the product. They use words such as ‘adventure’, ‘imagination’ and ‘destiny’; all words which conjure certain images in people’s heads. Gregory et al (1982) found that subjects who were ‘led to imagine themselves experiencing certain events came to believe more strongly that the events would befall them’. So, in terms of these adverts, by bringing these images to mind, the observer is more likely to go to Disney land to experience these feelings once they have been put into their head.

An obvious technique that the adverts use is their utilisation of celebrities. Each advert in the campaign features at least one celebrity, if not two or three. This demonstrates the ‘high status-admirer altercast’ as put forward by Pratkanis (2007).  The altercast suggests that people admire those that are high-status, and want to be like them. In order to do this they try to replicate what they do or have, in this case it means that they would visit the Disney Parks. The use of celebrities also promotes the idea of associative casting, that ‘there is a relationship between an individual’s attraction to a socially distant reference group [the celebrity] and the amount of influence that the group exerts’ (Cocanougher & Bruce, 1971).  By placing the celebrities into the advert, Disney are trying to influence their fans into going to the parks.

Finally, Disney are using metaphors to make their parks attractive to their customers. This concept was put forward by Sopory and Dillard (2002); In this case, the metaphor is the photograph being used, whether it is of Alice in Wonderland, Prince Charming or any of the characters. The metaphor here aligns the idea of living the dream and adventure of the stories with the Disney Parks (the product). By aligning these two ideas, the advert suggests to the customer that they are one and the same, making the customer want to experience the 'adventure' of the parks for themselves.


Cocanougher, A. B., & Bruce, G. D. (1971). Socially distant reference groups and consumer aspirations. Journal of Marketing Research, 8(3), 379-381.

Gonzales, M. H., Aronson, E., & Costanzo, M. A. (1988). Using Social Cognition and Persuasion to Promote Energy Conservation: A QuasiExperiment1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 18(12), 1049-1066.

Gregory, W. L., Cialdini, R. B., & Carpenter, K. M. (1982). Self-relevant scenarios as mediators of likelihood estimates and compliance: Does imagining make it so?. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43(1), 89.

Pratkanis, A. R. (Ed.). (2007). Social influence analysis: An index of tactics. The Science of Social Influence: Advances and future progress. New York: Psychology Press.

Sopory, P., & Dillard, J. P. (2002). The persuasive effects of metaphor: a metaanalysis. Human Communication Research, 28(3), 382-419.

Found content 2 - By Lucy Berkeley

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