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

Microplay Video Games

When you see this advert (especially as it is too tiny to see the small-print at the bottom) and the name of the brand as my title, what do you think it’s for? A new game release? Well it’s actually for a shop that buys, rents, trades and repairs games and gaming consoles. I don’t think this advert works, firstly, because it confuses the audience. It’s not clear about what it’s advertising, and this might be argued as being something that makes you more likely to look at it simply because you want to know what it’s for. I do not think this would happen in this case, because when you look closer you see vomit.

Dahl, Frankenberger and Manchanda (2003) found shocking content in an advertisement significantly increased attention and benefited memory among a group of university students. In this way, it could be argued that Microplay were hoping to gain more attention through their controversial advert. It certainly does stand out. However, offensive advertisements have been shown to be harmful to the product shown and even the brand, and this advert could definitely be labelled as offensive. Burke and Edell (1989) found consumers’ feelings about an advertisement would transfer to their feelings about the brand. Feeling negative towards both lead to low-purchase intention. People in Hong Kong were even likely to boycott a company using offensive advertising (Prendergast et al., 2002).

Shocking adverts can take many forms, for example using sexual tones, explicit language, utilising the feeling of disgust etc. In the Microplay advert they are playing on the feeling of disgust. Attitudes between advertisements, brands and brand recall were explored for disgust and non-disgusting tour operator (Dens, Pelsmacker, & Janssens, 2008) . The two adverts used for this study will be linked to below. The idea of the advert used was that you would be ‘reborn’ after returning from a holiday you went on with this tour operator. For the non-disgusting condition a man is shown curled up on a beach, and for the disgusting condition you see a man in a foetal like position with bodily fluids and an umbilical cord in the picture. For this study both adverts were paired with either a new or existing brand to see if that made a difference and meant there were 4 conditions, with each participant randomly assigned to one of these. They were asked to look at the advert they were given and to answer some questions, including ones that measured their attitude towards the advert and the brand and brand recall questions. As might be expected, the disgusting advertisement had a more negative attitude towards it by participants, and also didn’t lead to better brand recall. The results also showed that the advertisement was the reason for the negative attitude towards the brand for people afterwards. These attitudes and recall results were found for both new and existing brands.

Putting this study into context with the advert for Microplay, all they could be doing is creating a negative attitude towards their brand through the advert. In terms of improving their advertisement, I’m not sure it could be improved. I would argue it should never have been made in the first place. It doesn’t seem to link at all to what they are advertising and although it may catch attention, it does so for all the wrong reasons.

Burke, M. C., & Edell, J. A. (1989). The impact of feelings on ad-based affect and cognition. Journal of Marketing Research, 26, 69-83.

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(3), 268-280.

Dens, N., De Pelsmacker, P., & Janssens, W. (2008). Exploring consumer reactions to incongruent mild disgust appeals. Journal of Marketing Communications, 14(4), 249-269. 

Prendergast , G., Ho, B., & Phau, I. (2002). A Hong Kong view of offensive advertising. Journal of Marketing Communications, 8(3), 165-177.

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