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.

Monday, February 9, 2015

And the connection is...?

In 2004 a French non-profit organisation used this advertisement to increase awareness of AIDS. The caption at the bottom translates “without protection, you are making love to AIDS, protect yourself”. The advert wants the viewer to perceive the dangers of participating in unprotected sex as being similar to performing the same act with venomous creatures. The fact that the scorpion is huge can also be interpreted as a metaphor for the severity of the AIDS epidemic. However I would not have known this, if I didn’t go away and read up on its intentions. There are a number of reasons why this can be considered an ineffective piece of persuasion; (1) the link between the scorpion and AIDS isn’t clear for the beginning, and (2) the caption is extremely small, for such a strong message.

Parry, Jones, Stern and Robinson (2013) carried out a qualitative study that compared participant’s reactions towards shock advertising in for-profit (FP) and non-for profit (NFP) organisations. Researchers decided to use focus groups in order to facilitate debates, opinions and discussions centred on the content of the images. 12 billboard advertisements were selected based on their shock ability (which consisted of sexual, violence, vulgar and offensive content) and shown to participants on printed sheets, one at a time. All discussions were recorded and transcribed; in addition to this researchers provided summaries of participants physical reactions to the images. As the data collected was qualitative, below are some direct quotes from participants on the images they found most shocking.

Anti-verbal abuse (NFP)
“the message is clear, so spot on so y’know its yeah shocking but its much better than any words, this picture shows it for what it is” (Participant E)

Anti-smoking (NFP)
“You couldn’t just look at this picture and go, oh yes that’s smoking, I’ll stop smoking now” (Participant Q)

Barnardo’s (NFP)
“it appeal to your morals… if you logically think it through and come to a conclusion yourself that it’s a bad thing, then you should give money morally”  (Participant N)

Anti-terrorism (NFP)
“Oh God, this is just too much” (Participant E)

Although participants were shocked by most of the images, they perceived them to be more justifiable when they’re considered to be influential to a positive change in behaviour. In addition, participants only considered the shocking advertisements to be effective if they found a connection between the advertisement and the procedure or message.  Consequently, the French NFP AIDS awareness campaign should continue using this shock technique, as it clearly works. However, they should make the link between the image and the message more obvious from the beginning and make captions more visible.

Parry, S., Jones, R., Stern, P., & Robinson, M. (2013). ‘Shockvertising’: An exploratory investigation into attitudinal variations and emotional reactions to shock advertising. Joural of Consumer Behaviour, 12, 112-121

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