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.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cheat on your girlfriend, not on your workout

This is one of Reebok’s ad campaigns using a slogan ‘cheat on your girlfriend, not on your workout’. Undeniably offensive, it also indirectly evokes a question in the consumers mind, are abs more important or your long-term relationship?

The slogan cannot be perceived in any other way as it shows a disrespectful attitude towards women and encourages infidelity. It is widely known that advertising has the power to change a set of values held by people. It has the ability to influence individuals and change their attitude regarding things and issues that are morally wrong to being acceptable or morally right. A study by Lanis and Covell (1995) suggests that males who see print advertisements in which women are presented as sex objects are more likely to accept violence against women than males who are exposed to other non sexist types of advertisements.

Waller (1999) determines what causes a particular advertisement to be offensive, and to obtain a measure of attitude towards offensive advertising; a questionnaire was distributed amongst 125 (70 male, 55 female) university students.  The questionnaire followed a 5- point Likert-type format from which the respondents were given a list of six reasons, racism, sexist, indecent language, anti social behavior, too personal subject, and nudity for offensive advertising. The participants were asked to indicate the level of offense they felt because of those reasons. The results of the study show that one of the main reasons participants found the advertisement offensive was because it was sexist. The results also suggest that females are more offended by sexist adverts, as they are usually the targets of sexist comments and images.

Cohan (2001) argues that adverts can be successful in generating sales without portraying women as commodities or sex objects and without propagating various weakness stereotypes. The offensive nature of this advertisement questions its persuasiveness and appeal. This not only directs unfairness towards women but also portrays men as unfaithful and targets of misinterpretation from media. It is clear that the ad promotes infidelity, which ruins lives; therefore it evokes a negative attitude towards not only the advert but also towards the brand, Reebok.  Offensive advertisements result in a drop of sales of a product or service, and can also result in a boycott of the product, which reflects poorly on the company and agency behind the campaign.

As the market grows and competition between companies increases, the advertisements become more controversial as each company strives to launch something different and novel hoping for it to positively impact the consumers purchasing power, however in my opinion spending millions of dollars on an ad campaign, which promotes cheating in any way, is really not an effective or efficient marketing strategy.


D. S. Waller. (1999) Attitudes towards offensive advertising: an Australian study. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 16, 288- 294.

J. A. Cohan. (2001). Towards a New Paradigm in the Ethics of Women’s Advertising. Journal of Business Ethics 33, 323–337.

K. Lanis., & K. Covell. (1995) Images of Women in Advertisements: Effects on Attitudes Related to Sexual Aggression. Sex Roles, 32, 639, 646.

This is another example of a sexist advert suggesting women should be put in their place, the shoe gives a clear negative connotation to that.

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