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 18, 2013

Vistprint Business Cards. Ineffective use of the similarity altercast

Vistaprint Business Cards: Baker

Vistaprint Business Cards: Handyman

These Vistaprint advertisements use a handyman and a baker in an attempt to apply the ‘similarity altercast’ in which characters are used that the viewer is likely to find things in common with and thus view them as relatable people/characters. The influence device was termed “just plain folk” in the 1930s and has been applied by many politicians and leaders in an attempt to get their audience to relate to them. It is an attempt made by politicians to take on the role of being similar to common folk (Werkmeister, 1948).  Research has shown that source-recipient similarity increases influence and persuasion, although the exact mechanisms are yet to be pinned down. Brock (1965) found that a paint salesman was more influential when he had performed a job similar to the target as opposed to a highly experienced salesman.  

It is clear that this was the aim in these Vistaprint advertisements with the use of the handyman and the baker who both owned their own business and used a voice-over to speak about how busy they were whilst a clip was showing them hard at work. However, I believe that this advert fails to create very realistic characters that a viewer would find similar or relatable to themselves as they are poorly acted and appear to reading a script written by the company, thus making it just as effective as having a salesman, the viewer has nothing in common with, stand and recite facts about what makes the company so good. In addition, the back drop of the clips of the handyman and baker in the workplace are stark white and therefore unrealistic-once more placing the characters in  a setting that is not relatable to the audience.  

This is furthered by the fact that the company Vistaprint have numerous advertisements that are being aired during the same period. From personal experience I have watched the handyman version and then in the subsequent advert break I have watched the baker version.   The unrealistic nature of the advertisement is developed once again by the scripts for both advertisements being basically identical. Thereby, if a viewer was to see both of them close together it will further reinforce the unrealatable nature of the advertisements.
The final area I believe the advertisements fall down on is the way in which the advertisements have been structured.  For instance, in one the baker describes her being busy running her business all day thus Vistaprint is an easy way to create professional business cards as it can all be done online. This then leads into a “professional” voice over relaying facts about the company that make it easy and time efficient. Alongside this is a slideshow summarizing the points he is making such as “1000s of designs for all companies” and “easy-to-use customization options”. The advert then concludes with the voice-over informing the viewer how much money they could save by using their company-again accompanied with images that illustrate this message. Therefore, the latter part of the advert distances itself from the similarity altercast as the actors can no longer be seen.

Overall, these two basically identical advertisements for Vistaprint demonstrate the ineffective use of the ‘similarity altercast’ owing to the unrealistic ‘similar people’ the actors tried to convey. Thus meaning that the similarities were not present to unite a bond between source and target that, research has shown, can increase compliance. 
Baron, R.A (1971). Behavioral effects of interpersonal attraction: Compliance with requests from liked and disliked others. Psychonomic Science, 25, 325-326

Brock, T.C. (1965). Communicator-recipient similarity and decision change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2, 654-660

Werkmeister, W.H (1948). An introduction to critical thinking, Lincoln, NB: Johnsen Publishing   

1 comment:

  1. Nice description. Is this Found content 4? If so, it needs to reference the 'fundamental templates' article.


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