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, January 22, 2014

Fairy: Humouring your daily needs.

Dish-washing liquid: possibly one of the most unrelatable and uninspiring product I could have chosen to analyse an ad on. Yet, I dare say that this ad is not only relatable and  relevant, it’s actually quite amusing!

This ad uses the persuasive technique of humour by creatively composing an ironic visual metaphor between their audiences’ daily plight and their product.  The ad displays the word ‘work’ obscured by the word ‘facebook’  juxtaposing the audiences’ struggle to separate their work from their pleasure(facebook) and the effectiveness of their product. The ad leaves the audience with an image of their product and the words “some things are hard to separate” harshly implying while the audience may not be efficient at separation, their product is.

The use of humour not only has a memorable impact on the viewer but transforms the product (dish-washing liquid) from mundane and boring, into captivating and unique, differentiating their product from the rest of their competitors. Madden and Weinberger (1984) found that advertising agencies regarded humour as highly effective as it positively affects attention, awareness for new products, name registration, the communication of a simple point, retention, mood and brand switching. These beliefs reflect years of daily experience and research in the field of advertising. Supporting these beliefs. Speck (1987) found that humour has a positive effect on audiences’  initial attention, sustained attention, projected attention and overall attention whereby it was much higher in humorous compared to non-humorous ads. Moreover, Speck’s study highlighted the persuasive power of humour whereby it increased the intent to use the product as well as the perceived quality of the product. Stewart & Furse (1986) also found that humour can increase comprehension of an ad. While Strenthal and Craig(1973) found that humour can lead to increase liking of the source.

The current ad also actively engages the audience as they have to disentangle the underlying connection between the product and the message. The successful interpretation of the ad is pleasurable for the audience as it makes them feel intelligent for solving it (Durgee,1988).  Thus through the use of humour and active engagement-positive affect is aroused in the audience which is then associated with the product. Rimoldi (2008) showed that positive feelings aroused in an advert are often associated with the product of that ad.

As you can see, although this ad may be simple, it is packed with persuasive techniques. So next time, you’re buying your routine household products- ask yourself, why are you buying this brand? Were you influenced by some sneaky persuasive advert?


Madden, T.J., & Weinberger, M.G. (1984). Humour in advertising: A practitioner view, Journal of advertising research24, I23-29.

Speck, P. S. (1987). On humour and humour in advertising. Disstertation, Texas Tech University.

Stewart, D. W., & Furse, D. H. (1985). The effects of television advertising execution on recall, comprehension and persuasion.  Psychology and Marketing, 2, 135-160.

Strenthal,  B. C., & Craig, S. (1973). Humour in advertising. Journal of Marketing, 37, 12-18.

Durgee, J. F. (1988). Interpreting consumer mythology: Literary criticism approach to odyssey informant stories. Advances in Consumer Research,15, 531-536.

Rimoldi, A. (2008). The impact of ‘likeability’ on advertising effectiveness: To what extent does liking ad advert have a persuasive influence of consumer behaviour? (Unpublished doctoral dissertation) University of Nottingham: Nottingham

Tashya De Silva

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