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 26, 2015


The use of extreme situations is listed as one of the fundamental templates of advertising, outlined by Goldenberg, Mazursky and Solomon (1999). The extreme situation template comes in three varieties:

  • The absurd alternative version shows the product being used easily, in contrast to an absurd and unrealistic alternative, highlighting the product as the obvious choice. An example of this may be an advert for a can opener, in which a model is shown easily and quickly opening a can using the product, compared with someone else trying to gnaw open the can with their teeth.
  • The extreme attribute version greatly exaggerates one positive attribute of the product, an example of this may be to portray the powerlessness of a car by showing it towing a huge space shuttle.
  • Similar to the extreme attribute version, the extreme worth version is used to greatly exaggerate the worth of the product.

The advert shown above is an example of the extreme situation template being used to exaggerate the worth of the service being advertised- obedience lessons for dogs. By stating that the obedience classes "pay for themselves" coupled with the image of the dog and human hiding from dinosaurs, the advert portrays an extreme and unrealistic scenario in which the obedience classes could save lives. While the scenario in the advert it obviously an extreme example of how the obedience classes can help customers, it succeeds in grabbing the attention of potential customers and in getting across the worth of the service.

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

By Georgia Kelly

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