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.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

J-Lo. She’s got it, yeah baby she’s got it... Have you?

Some may say this ad has the full package; a catchy song, empowering words and an adorable family scene on the beach, naw.  Oh, and we should mention that it features the super-sexy, super-famous J-Lo with her convincing speech about how we can all be just like her, a goddess. We see the star in concert, rehearsing and playing with her children, it’s a miracle she fits it all in. It’s a miracle how any woman fits it all in; upholding a successful career and being a mother surely requires super-human qualities, ‘an inner goddess’. According to J-Lo we all have one and she demands that we reveal it (and if J-Lo tells you to do something, you do it), but how? By using a Venus razor from Gillette. Venus-smooth legs are all you need to “reveal your inner goddess”, and better yet, to be just like J-Lo. Brb, just popping to the shops.

Jennifer Lopez’s celebrity status is crucial to the persuasiveness of this advert. By using her to communicate the advert’s message a high-status and physically attractive-admirer altercast is generated. This technique induces the viewer to admire the pretty and famous to the extent that we ‘want to be part of their world’ (Pratkanis, 2007, p. 33). J-Lo’s physical attractiveness and high social status means she is perceived to be a credible source (Cialdini, 2001; Lefkowitz et al,. 1955) and thus people believe her attitude is the right attitude. We internalise the attitude she presents because holding a correct attitude is desirable (Pratkanis, 2007). But the admiration for this pop princess doesn’t end there. Not only does she look stunning on the red carpet, but the advert ends with J-Lo on the beach playing with her children. This heart-warming scene presents the viewer with the other, more private side to the star’s life. Not only is she a talented performer (who likes a good strut) but she still manages to spend quality time with her family – the work/life balance any busy parent aspires to achieve. Motherhood is something a vast number of viewers may relate to and similarity is another persuasive advertising technique. One study found that donations to a charity more than doubled when the requester claimed to be similar to them (Aune & Basil, 1954). Additionally, by filming J-Lo actually using the Venus razor herself, the instruction to buy and use the product is further clarified in line with social learning theory (Bandura et al., 1967). When we see a likable and desirable model perform a behaviour and gain positive results we imitate this behaviour so to obtain the same rewards. In sum, the viewer is more likely to comply with the company’s request and buy a Venus razor so to be just like J-Lo. Oh, and to reap the silky-smooth rewards she shows are possible (but that’s just a bonus).

However it isn’t just J-Lo’s looks that help this product sell but her dialogue also, “A feeling of confidence and strength, an inner sparkle and an outer fabulous…you have the power to captivate and radiate”. The language used is empowering and boosts the viewer’s self-esteem. Research demonstrates how making the viewer feel good about themselves can improve liking for the product (Petty et al., 1993) because it taps into our basic desire to believe good things about ourselves (Vonk, 2002). These words are presented visually too so to increase the strength of communication. Thus the company’s message is presented through multiple modalities comparable to the repetition-variation technique (Sawyer, 1981) whereby the same message is conveyed in different ways, thus increasing recall (Adams, 1916) and persuasiveness (Heeler, 1972). “Goddess is where you put your best foot forward followed by your most beautiful leg”, this line illustrates the type of audience the advert wants to attract, busy women who need to work fast but still want to look attractive. J-Lo tells us what we want and then informs us how to get it – by buying a Venus razor. Moreover, the use of ‘Let’s’ in “Let’s get your goddess showing” conveys the idea that J-Lo is going through this experience with us. Thus applying social pressure to comply to the request, as if by not purchasing the razor we would be letting her and her goddess down. Even the product’s name ‘Venus’ has connotations, this is also the name of the Roman God of Love and Beauty and we therefore associate these appealing qualities with the product itself (Strick et al., 2009). Strick et al. found that evaluations of a product were more positive if accompanied by a humorous advert than a non-humorous one because the products became associated with the humor and its positive affect. Thus individuals associate the romantic and powerful qualities of the God Venus with the razor.

The heavenly combination of these techniques come together to create an advert that really does make Venus your fire and your desire.

Alice Goodman


Adams, H.F., (1916). Advertising and Its Mental Laws, New York: Macmillian.Pratkanis, A. R. (2007). The Science of Social Influence. New York: Psychology Press.

Aune, R. K. & Basil, M. D. (1994). A relational obligations explanation for the foot-in-the-mouth effect. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24, 546-556.

Bandura, A., & Perloff, B. (1967). Relative efficacy of self-monitored and externally imposed reinforcement systems. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 7, 111-116.

Cialdini, R. B., (2001). Influence. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Heeler, R.M., (1972). A laboratory investigation of inter-related effects of mixed media, multiple copy, and multiple insertions in advertising campaigns. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Stanford University. 

Lefkowitz, M., Blake, R. R., & Mouton, J. S. (1955). Status factors in pedestrian violation of traffic signals. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 51, 704-706. 

Petty, R. E., Schumann, D.W., Richman, S. A., & Strathman, A. (1993). Positive mood and persuasion: Different roles for affect under high- and low-elaboration conditions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,64, 5-20. 

Sawyer, A., (1981). Repetition, Cognitive Responses, and Persuasion.  Cognitive Responses in Persuasion, eds.  Petty, R. E., Ostrom, T. M., & Brock, T. C., Hillsdale, IL: Erlbaum, 237-262.

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: Applied, 15, 35.

Vonk, R., (2002). Self-Serving Interpretations of Flattery: Why Ingratiation Works. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82 (4), 515-26.

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