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.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

I'm lovin' it

The above McDonalds advert is part of their ongoing Good To Know campaign, implemented to generate trust in the brand and the authenticity and quality of the products they sell. In this particular clip, McDonalds is ‘mythbusting’ - proving that the eggs they use in their breakfast menu are “real, freshly cracked, free-range eggs”.

In this advert, McDonalds use multiple techniques to persuade consumers that their brand and subsequently their product is authentic and trustworthy – one obvious example is the effect of repetition, which illustrates that the more an individual is exposed to a message, the more truthful they perceive the message to be (Hovland, Janis & Kelley, 1953). In this instance, McDonalds uses the word “real” FOUR times over the space of 30 seconds – ensuring that by the end of the advert, you know that they use real real real real eggs. However, I think that their main overarching technique is not repetition, but the use of warmth and humour in the advert, creating a silly, friendly atmosphere.

Pelsmacker and Geuens (1999) investigated the effects of warmth and humour in advertising in more depth. The authors divided 166 students into 3 groups, with Group 1 viewing 9 advertisements for consumer durables (typically cars household appliances that are designed to be used for a long time after purchase), Group 2 viewing 9 advertisements for clothes and body care products, and Group 3 viewing 9 advertisements for food, restaurants and soft drinks. A pilot study, carried out prior to this study, ensured that each group of participants all viewed a mixture of advertisements in terms of the adverts’ intensity of warmth and humour. 
The authors then recorded the following cognitions experienced by the participants: whether they felt the advertisement made them think about the product, and were these positive, neutral or negative thoughts, alongside whether they felt the advertisement made them think about the brand, and again, were these thoughts positive, neutral or negative. The authors were then able to use these scores, alongside the participants’ resulting emotions from viewing the advertisement, to produce measures of Ab (attitudes towards the brand), AaD (attitudes towards the advertisement), and PI (purchase intent). The results are summarised below in a pretty ugly table:

The presence of warmth in an advert, regardless of whether it is of high intensity or medium intensity, led to significantly more positive affective responses (AaD and Ab) (see Figure 1).

More complex results are produced by using humour in an advert. The presence of humour, regardless of it’s intensity, led to significantly more positive attitudes towards the advertisement (AaD). However, when considering Ab, positive results were only wielded when humour intensity was moderate. High levels of humour actually appeared to have a counterproductive effect (see Figure 2).

So, back to McDonalds. I would argue this advert combines high levels of warmth with moderate levels of humour - the odd egg-men aren’t rib-crushingly hilarious (though my 6 year old cousin would disagree with me) but they are far-fetched enough to bring a smile to the face of the viewer. The feel of the advert, though, is very lighthearted and friendly, from tap dancing cleaners, to fourth-wall-breaking McDonalds workers, to talking hens. Pelsmacker and Geuens (1999) would predict that this combination would result in positive attitudes towards the brand (Ab), and I think this is what McDonalds is really aiming for with this advert – considering that the product, the Egg McMuffin, is consistently one of McDonalds’ best sellers (Harris, 2009). This Eggs advert also only makes up one section of their current campaign, with clips advertising the quality of McDonalds’ beef, chicken and potatoes also in circulation. 


1. Harris, W. (2009, April 7). "10 Most Popular McDonald's Menu Items of All Time". Retrieved from

2. Hovland, C., Janis, I., & Kelley, H. (1953). Communication and Persuasion: Psychological Studies of Opinion Change. New Haven: Yale University Press.

3. Pelsmacker, P., & Geuens, M. (1999). The advertising effectiveness of different levels of intensity of humour and warmth and the moderating role of top of mind awareness and degree of product use. Journal of Marketing Communications, 5, 113–129.

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