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 29, 2015

Summer Sounds

Above is a radio advertisement for Coca Cola produced in the summer of 2009. The ad starts with a male voice speaking to his 'thirst', asking if it can sample a few 'summer sounds'. Then there comes the sound of sea waves and seagulls, to which 'thirst' immediately replies 'yes'. After that, the sound of a nightclub with loud music is played, and once again 'thirst' says 'yes'. The last sound effect is the sound of a can of Coke being opened and a guy gulping down the Coke. 'Thirst' says yes loudly. The male voice then explains that all that was played was not special sound effects, but 'that was coke'. 

I found this advertisement memorable because of the sound effects. All three sound clips have reminded me of the feelings we experience in summer - having fun on a beach, at a party, and having a slip of icy Coke when you feel so hot and thirsty. The first two clips creates the feelings associated with summer (e.g. hotness, sweatiness, thirst), and then the last clip adds a refreshing effecting to the ad, enhancing audience's desire for Coke. Thirst's 'yes' in the end sounds like it is completely satisfied and finally find something that it has been looking for. It was the sounds that make the ad successful and persuasive.

The techniques involved in this ad are supported by a study conducted by Miller and Marks (1997), which looked at the effectiveness of three different imagery-evoking strategies (sound effects, vivid verbal messages and instructions to imagine) in influencing mental imagery, ad-evoked feelings and attitudes towards the ad. In the study, participants were randomly assigned to listen to one of the eight radio ads, which involved different imagery-evoking strategies or different combinations of these strategies. For the sound effect strategy, sounds such as the clatter of football fans entering the stadium and a marching band performing at halftime were used. As for the vivid verbal message strategy, these ads included a narration with colourful and vivid languages. For ads that involved instructions to imagine, verbal instructions started with phrases such as ‘imagine you…’ and ‘picture the….'. After listening to the clips, participants rated each ad on their the quantity and vividness of imagery, ad-evoked feelings, and their attitudes towards the ad.

Results show that out of the three strategies, sound effects were the most effective in influencing imagery and affect. The authors suggested that this is because sounds can directly cause intense activation of our emotional and perceptual structures, which then generates feelings related to that experience. They then suggested that vivid verbal messages and instructions to imagine have a weaker influence on imagery and affect, because the mediating activation of semantic structures (as listeners have to process the semantics of verbal cues) causes less intense activation of perceptual structures. This exerts a weaker influence on the audience's quantity and vividness of mental imagery, their feelings, and their attitudes towards the ad.

Table 1. Means for the effects of imagery-evoking strategies 

The study shows that sound effects can be powerful tools used in radio ads. It reflects how the sound clips played in the Coca Cola ad make its audience vividly imagine the feelings associated with summer, and audience's positive attitude towards having some Coke when they feel so thirsty in summer.

Miller, D. W., & Marks, L. J. (1997). The effects of imagery-evoking radio advertising strategies on affective responses.Psychology & Marketing, 14(4), 337-360. 

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