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.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Reluctant consumer

The above commercial attempts to use humour to advertise M&Ms. In my opinion, it fails. The characterisation of the M&Ms as being aggressive, coupled with the man’s apparent reluctance to choose them as a snack (he’s railroaded into it by having copious amounts of bread thrown at his head), seems to present the brand in a negative light. This contradicts usual advertising practise of making your brand appear as appealing as possible.

The fact that in this advert the protagonist appears to dislike/want to avoid the product, is in direct defiance of previous research which supports social consensus theory. I.e. behaving in the way that we see others behave. For example, there is an extensive body of research into the effects of children viewing violent material as some research has shown that they then copy that behaviour. Bjorkvist (1985) showed a group of 5/6 year old children either a violent or non-violent video and then observed their playing behaviour (without knowing which video they had seen). Children that had viewed the more violent video were rated significantly higher in demonstrating physical assault (e.g. hitting) as part of their playing behaviour. This demonstrates the effect of observing someone’s behaviour and then copying it afterwards. If this effect is true of the M&M advert, those watching will feel negative towards the product making them less likely to buy it. This completely defeats the purpose of the advert.


Bjorkqvist, K. (1985). Violent films, anxiety, and aggression. Helsinki: Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters.

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