This advert by Harvey Nichols has tried to use humour and jeer pressure to promote their summer sale. However, it comes across as distasteful by suggesting that women will end up wetting themselves in excitement. This was undoubtedly very insulting to many women who the advert was aimed at.
The intended use of humour was aimed at increasing persuasion for people to attend their sale event. This is supported by research by O’Quinn and Aronoff (1981) whereby participants completed a bargaining table type task where a ‘buyer’ and ‘seller’ had to agree on a price of a painting. Participants were always assigned the role of the ‘buyer’. The participants received an influence attempt from a confederate in either a humorous (where they were told by the ‘seller’: “my final offer is $___, and I’ll throw in my pet frog”) or non-humorous way (where they were told by the ‘seller’: “my final offer is $___”). The results showed that humour led to a more positive evaluation and an increase in compliance.
In addition, perhaps the creators of the advert were trying to use jeer pressure to persuade their audience to attend the sale. This is shown by Steele (1975) who had a confederate either be insulting, praising or neutral towards a participant during a discussion containing a request. The participant was insulted via name-calling and this was shown to increase compliance for the request.
Although these two tactics seem to be effective in increasing persuasion, it is likely to have backfired with this advert considering the somewhat offensive way in which it was applied. Therefore, it could be improved by using the similarity altercast and portraying these women as being glamorous and sophisticated, which other women will want to be like, and therefore will be likely to attend the sale in order to achieve this.
O’Quinn, K. & Aronoff, J. (1981). Humor as a technique of social influence. Social Psychology Quarterly, 44, 349-357.
Steele, C. M. (1975). Name-calling and compliance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31, 361-369.