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 28, 2018

'No, I won't get bloody Grammarly'

If you're someone who watches the occasional YouTube video I am sure I do not need to introduce you to the spectacularly pervasive plague, *sorry product of Grammarly to you. 

For the past year, I have seen no end to these unskippable beauties popping up just about every time I watch a video. Regardless of the product's actual utility, we need to talk about their advertising. It started with this: 

No doubt YouTube's cookie monitoring software cottoned on to the fact I am another procrastinating student. And tailoring your ads to specific people certainly has its uses. As Cialdini (2009) points out, one of the tennants of scoial proof is that we are more likely to be persuaded by something when the people are similar to us. This is of course a useful adaptation and was probably evolutionarily selected for. No need for our ancestors to spend all those hours thinking about whether to eat a certain type of berry, just copy Steve.

In the present day then, producing an advert featuring students for students might seem like a smart idea right? Wrong. 

In the Grammarly advertisements, they have deliberately attempted to feign social evidence to tap into our automatic processing. Fortunately for us, when advertisers are lazy about this, we can detect it (Cialdini, 2009). And as they say in their own commercials: 'With Grammarly, it's so easy'. 

Straight away I had a twitch with this advert. The 'student' slides into view saying 'it's finals week... so i'll be writing papers'. 

NO YOU WON'T. You're an actor and you'll be doing acty things. Also, if you were really a student you would never be talking that loudly, have you seen the kind of death stares you receive for whispering on Floor 4 of Warwick Library? The commercial is so obviously scripted it is almost painful. 

Shout out to the 2.3 seconds our 'student' spends typing on her laptop in between a sentence. It must have been something good as her score shot up to 100. 

Arguably my favourite moment is when our 'professor' takes one look at the assignment and instantly decides he won't need to check it for errors anymore. Don't you just love it when that happens?

It's frustrating to see someone deliberatley pretending to be a student and share my pain. However, rage levels hit the ozone layer when I saw another Grammarly advert with the same actress in- only this time she's a working professional: 

Come on Grammarly you could at least try! This is the exact same lack of tact ued by Italian claquers at Opera performances hundreds of years ago (Cialdini, 2009). 

In conclusion, Cialdini calls for people to 'aggressively counterattack' whenever we see advertisers attempting to decieve us in this way. As a fellow student (and this time I actually am) I implore you to join Cialdini's revolution!

P.S recency effects show it's wise to end on a positive so here is a parody advert for Grammarly that ironically, is actually more convicing. Enjoy :) 


Cialdini, R. B. (2009). Influence: Science and practice (Vol. 4). Boston, MA: Pearson education.

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