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.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mr. Clean

This advertisement was not very well thought through. The message it’s trying to convey is that women can get their chores around the house done much faster and more effectively by using Mr. Clean products and therefore can have more time for their professional and personal life. Unfortunately, it can be misunderstood by some women that the company is suggesting that they should focus on the housework, to the only job that they are supposed to do. In other words, Mr. Clean is sending them to the kitchen. This can be a very sensitive subject for some women.

According to Christy (2003) the term offensive advertising has not yet been defined. He explains the difficulty behind this. He also states that the occurrence of offence in advertising varies according to audience make-up. He mentions gender, age and religion as the three factors with the most moderating effect on the likelihood of offence. He quotes research done by the British Advertising Standards Authority in 2002 which found that a higher percentage of women were likely to be offended by advertising than men (Christy, 2003).

This study employed an in-depth, one-on-one interviewing with a group of 15 women aged 34 to 55 (this group was considered by the researcher as more likely to get offended). The open ended questions used were focused on the following areas – cultural background and values, offence experienced previously, experience with advertising and mass media and finally offence experienced through the exposure to advertising. Participants were also shown a series of prints and advertising which have received complaints in the past. They were all foreign – it was very unlikely any of the participants would be exposed to them in the past. The findings indicated that there are two components to advertising offensiveness, the first being the individual’s experience with particular advertisements. The individual’s set of values is important in determining whether they will be offended. The second component involves the levels of influence that the offensive message has over identity, behavior and social order. Identity includes being manipulated, minimized and told what to think. Behavior deals with the feeling of protection for these who are easily manipulated by the power of advertising. Social order is altering standards, legitimizing wrong behavior and promoting materialism. Individuals who encounter offence in advertising can either resist its influence or become desensitized and accept it (Christy, 2003).


Christy, T. P. (2003), A qualitative study of consumer reactions to offensive advertising. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.

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