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, February 6, 2014

Why didn't I charge my camera!?
We’ve all been on nights out where one of our friends is attempting to act sober. In fact, they have had far too many vodkas and can barely walk. Soon enough, they have tripped over their heels and have fallen to the floor. You check they’re ok and then proceed to take a video of them to put up on Facebook tomorrow. There’s a problem: your camera’s battery is dead. This advert is very persuasive in convincing us that the Sony Stamina Camcorder is the ultimate solution.


As has previously been identified, this advert uses an inverted consequences template (Goldberg, Mazursky & Soloman, 1999). In the advert, the man’s camcorder runs out of battery. Following this, a series of extreme events occur e.g. a car crashes into the building. The viewer is reminded that they would have been able to record that had the camera been functional. Thus, there were consequences. Goldberg et al. (1999) also describe the extreme situations template where unrealistic situations are used to accentuate the key features of a product or service. Specifically, extreme worth is portrayed. A functioning camcorder would be extremely useful in this particular scenario, in order to capture the string of disastrous events. In reality however, it’s not critical for us to embarrass our drunken friend (as described above). There’ll be plenty of opportunities! The camera’s worth is significantly less than is suggested in the advert.


When the man’s camcorder stop’s working, the camera swerves to the woman in the scene. She is seen to roll her eyes at the man’s incompetence to work his camera. This is very effective for many reasons. Embarrassment results in a poor social evaluation and we have a desire to avoid it wherever possible (Prakanis, 2007). It therefore leads to compliance. For example, Apsler (1975) found that students were more likely to help others when they were made to sing a song in front of another person, even when the two events were unrelated. Similarly, Cann and Blackwelder (1984) found that students were more likely to help when outside the toilets, compared to when they were walking in the hallway (80% vs 45%).  To avoid embarrassment in the advert’s situation, all you have to do is by the Sony Stamina camcorder. It’s simple really.


The embarrassment is increased because the man in the advert is seen to make a fool of him in front of an attractive woman. Let’s face it: attractiveness sells. Debevec, Madden and Kernan (1986) found that participants were more likely to agree with a message presented by an attractive narrator – whether they were male or female.  In this advert, the embarrassment alone is bad enough, but throwing an extreme situation and an attractive woman into the mix surely makes for a particularly persuasive advertising campaign.



Apsler, R. (1975). Effects of embarrassment on behavior toward others.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32(1),145-153

Cann, A., & Blackwelder, J. G. (1984). Compliance and mood: A field investigation of the impact of embarrassment. Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 117(2), 221-226.

Debevec, K., Madden, T. J., & Kernan, J. B. (1986). Physical attractiveness, message evaluation, and compliance: A structural examination. Psychological Reports, 58(2), 503-508

Goldenberg, J., Mazursky, D., & Solomon, S. (1999). The fundamental templates of quality ads. Marketing Science, 18(3), 333-351.

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

Philippa Mundy

1 comment:

  1. Good Phillipa, maybe a small conclusion would have helped to round off the piece.


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