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

Need to lose a little weight before your wedding?

This advertisement uses different kinds of persuasive techniques to make its viewer buy Slim Fast. The bride on the wedding cake has apparently not lost enough weight before the wedding and has therefore sunk into the cake; her husband is trying to help her.

The first technique that is applied here is the use of an inverted consequences template. If you do not follow the recommendation of the advertisement, you will have to live with the negative consequences. The template usually consists of a situation – here, a wedding for which you did not lose weight - followed by a consequence, which here is that you might embarrass yourself in front of all your guests. This makes the viewer think about how he might avoid this consequence. The advertisement already offers the solution for this problem: Taking SlimFast (Goldenberg, Mazursky, & Solomon, 1999).

Moreover, guilt is used as a technique: The viewer’s attention is drawn to the inconsistency between his goals (look terrific at a wedding) and his behaviour (not losing enough weight before). Arousing guilt in this way can possibly be an effective mechanism of persuasion (O`Keefe, 2002). However, this can also go wrong, if the viewer begins to feel angry, because he is reminded of his failure. This means that the guilt appeal should not be too explicit, especially as it has been shown that adverts that arouse guilt moderately are more effective than harsh ones (Pinto & Priest, 1991). 

This advertisement solves this issue by adding humour. Humour itself has been shown to be a good mechanism of influence, as it enhances attention that is paid to an ad (Madden & Weinberger, 1982). Besides this, it serves another cause: It has been suggested that humor can distract an audience from the message of a text (Sternthal & Craig, 1973)– in this case, therefore, the humour in seeing a bride sink through a wedding cake prevents that the viewer feels too much guilt, thus preventing resentment against the add. 

In sum, the humour used in this advertisement draws attention to the product, and prevents that the viewer feels too guilty. The inverted consequence template shows a consequence a bride definitely does not want to experience at her wedding, and will therefore make her consider buying this product.


Goldenberg, J., Marzusky, D., & Solomon, S. (1999). The fundamental templates of quality ads. Marketing Science, 18(3), 333-351.
Madden, T. J., & Weinberger, M. C. (1982). The effects of humor on attention in magazine advertising. Journal of Advertising, 11(3), 8-14.
O’Keefe, D. J. (2002). Guilt as a mechanism of persuasion. In J. Price Dillard & M. Pfau (Eds.), The persuasion handbook: Developments in theory and practice. London, United Kingdom: Sage Publications.
Pinto, M. B., & Priest, S. (1991). Guilt appeals in advertising: An exploratory study. Psychological Reports, 69, 375-385.
Sternthal, B., & Craig, C. S. (1973). Humor in Advertising. Journal of Marketing, 37(4), 12-18.

Anna Werner


  1. I liked this a lot, totally agree with your analysis.

  2. Do you by any chance know the date or even year the ad was published?


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