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 13, 2013

Calle 13

This is a Spanish advert from 2009 advertising household items. This advert purposely breaches social norms with the intent to shock. Shock tactics in advertising are often used and have been known to attract attention, increase memory of the advert and encourage consumers to engage in message-relevant behaviours (Dahl, Frankenberger & Machanda, 2003). Although shock tactics might attract initial attention, the implication of this advert is very unclear and is sending a very worrying message – is it saying that there are other uses for the product e.g. a murder weapon? Nothing in this advert educates the consumer about the product – no information has been provided and it has purely been designed to attract attention.

As this advert offers no information about the product, the consumer is unlikely to have a high product involvement. When a consumer has lower product involvement they tend to devote fewer cognitive resources to advertisement processing. When confronted with a controversial advert the available cognitive resources that the audience has devoted to the advert are quickly overwhelmed to the detriment of message comprehension (Huhmann & Mott-Stenerson, 2008).  The content of this advert is already confusing and without a high product involvement, the message is completely lost.

Consumers who consider the content of an advert to be threatening or disturbing will filter that information out. This is known as perceptual defence as is the tendency for people to protect themselves against ideas, objects or situations that are threatening. Perceptual defence is more likely in anxiety producing situations because it leads consumers to avoid stimuli that produce fears of anxieties (Thes, 1994).  As this advert contains violent images it is fair to conclude that it could be anxiety provoking for many of the audience.

This is a very extreme concept for the advertisement for home ware product. The company should consider using shock tactics that are perhaps less dramatic but just as vivid. A vivid appeal is emotionally interesting, image provoking and immediate. Borgida and Nisbett (1977) found that students’ selection of courses was much more dependent on receiving a vivid comment from another person compared to looking at ratings of the course by previous students. However vividness can be ineffective when paired with a weak argument – such as this advert demonstrates.

Borgida, E., & Nisbett, R. E. (1977). The differential impact of abstract vs. concrete information on decisions. Journal of Applied social psychology, 7, 258 – 271.

Dahl, D W., Frankenberger, K. D., & Manchanda, R, V. (2003). Does it pay to shock? Reactions to shocking and nonshocking advertising content among university students. Journal of advertising research, 43, 268-280.

Huhman, B. A., & Mott-Stenerson, B. (2008). Controversial advertisement executions and involvement on elaborative processing and comprehension. Journal of marketing communications, 14, 293-313.

Thes, K. T. (1994). Subliminal advertising and the psychology of processing unconscious stimuli: A review of research. Psychology and marketing, 11, 271 – 290.

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