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 12, 2015

Calling All...Murderers?!?

 No need to worry about getting that blood off your hands, thanks to Dettol! This ad for soap is trying to persuade people that its good enough to get even the toughest stains out and to remove all evidence. The people who created the ad were probably trying to go for the shock factor to attract people to the ad, but its not very effective for several reasons. First of all, it is suggestive that killing people is something people have to worry about in everyday life and it is making light of  violence which should not be portrayed in this way in the media. Secondly, the idea for the advertisement may have been to use the weapon effect to increase people's memory for it, but little did they know that it may have backfired. When there is violence or weapons in an advertisement, it does increase memory for the violence or weapons, but it actually leads to decreased memory of the actually brands or message that the advertisement is about.(Bushman & Bonacci, 2002). This study shows that they violent connotations of the Dettol ad, and the weapon seen in the dead body, these would actually have negative effects and lead to less people remembering the fact that the ad was for Dettol soap, so it would not actually be effective in increasing their sales. 

They could have made this advertisement more effective by using a scenario that will appeal to the plain folk/similarity alter cast. No one looking at this ad will be able to relate to the situation, so if instead it appealed to an actually everyday situation and how effective the soap is in say getting off paint or marker from your hands from playing with the children, or something to that effect, it would have a much greater appeal. The similarity alter cast method highlights how similar the audience is to the person in the ad, making it more relatable. Research has shown source-recipient similarity increases persuasion and influence. 

In a study by Stotland, Zander and Natsoulas (1964), female participants were put in a cubicle and given microphones to speak to the experimenter, and other participants. The microphones were actually dead, and they were listening to a pre-recorded transcript. They were told the other people they could hear were person 'A' and 'B' and that they were 'C' and that after each question they have to write down the others responses as well as their own. First, they all listened to various melodies and stated their favourites, and the participant was made aware that participant A or B happened to like most of the same ones as her, making them similar. The participants then stated which nonsense syllable out of a set they most preferred, out of a set of two shown to them on cards. The participant recorded A and B’s preferences (the first syllable or the second syllable) before choosing her own. She was led to believe her microphone broke, meaning the others could not hear her response. The participant then responded to a questionnaire about her preference of names, in which she was also asked to say what she thought A and B’s preferences would be.  

As the table above shows, it was found that when participants noticed similarities between themselves and the other participant, they then tended to agree with the person they perceived as musically similar to themselves, choosing the same syllables as them, provided that opinions on the music were strong. Participants also projected their preferences onto the person they perceived as being similar to them, stating that they would prefer the same names they did.

This demonstrates that, for example, the ad could instead have shown a more realistic example of everyday household use of the soap as stated above, such as involving a messy activity with the children , which would have proven more effective in appealing more to audiences. 


Maddux, J. E., & Rogers, R. W. (1983). Protection motivation and self-efficacy: A revised theory of fear appeals and attitude change. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 19(5), 469-479.

Bushman, B., & Bonacci, A. (2002). Violence and sex impair memory for television ads. Journal Of Applied Psychology87(3), 557-564. 

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