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

Richard's Turned Up

This Virgin Media advert features Usain Bolt, who represents Virgin's fibre optic broadband service, racing the embodiment of “regular” broadband to download a film. Obviously Usain Bolt wins, thus showing that if you want your movie downloaded quick, you should get Bolt to do it. The advert utilises several persuasive techniques to get the message to the audience that their product is better than other products available. The most obvious of these is the use of several celebrities, including Bolt, owner Richard Branson, and comedian Richard Ayoade.

The use of celebrities is common in modern advertisements, due to an effect called the high status-admirer altercast (Pratkanis, 2007), people are more likely to follow the lead of someone they perceive to be of higher status than themselves, for example a celebrity, due to wanting to be like that person or seek their approval. In a study by Lefkowitz, Blake and Mouton (1955), they showed that people are more likely to copy a person who was perceived to be of high status who crossed a street, when the traffic signals told them to wait, than they were to copy a person perceived to be of low status.

This advert doesn't just use any celebrity though, it uses the fastest man in the world, a celebrity who we can safely say is associated with speed, which is the main factor of the service that Virgin Media wants to sell. The use of association is another technique that can be used to influence people, for example Staats and Staats (1958) conditioned their participants to associate names with either negative or positive responses. Here the advert likens the broadband service to Usain Bolt, trying to make viewers associate the service with speed.


Lefkowitz, M., Blake, R. R., & Mouton, J. S. (1955). Status factors in pedestrian violation of traffic signals. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 51, 704-706.

Pratkanis, A. (2007). The science of social influence: Advances and future progress. New York: Psychology Press.

Staats, A. W., & Staats, C. K. (1958). Attitudes established by classical conditioning. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 57, 37-40.

Xenia Millar (Blog 1)

1 comment:

  1. You make the most important points here and you have written well, id say that you could have included better detailed empirical research to support your points.


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