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.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The earth's lungs

This advertisement was created for WWF’s campaign in order to raise awareness for deforestation. This advert shows a forest in the shape of a pair of lungs. There are rivers running through the forests to represent veins and arteries, with the water symbolizing blood. The right (our left) lung looks healthy while the left (our right) lung has been partially cut down through deforestation, implying that the earth’s lungs are damaged. This advert is personifying forests and associating them with lungs in order to create fear and guilt.

Association works by taking the qualities of one object or idea and transferring them to another. For example, Smith and Engel (1968) showed a control group of participants a picture of a car and a second, experimental, group a picture of a car surrounded by attractive women. Participants in the experimental group rated the car as faster, more appealing, more expensive and better designed. The reasons given for this effect was that the positive qualities of the attractive women were being unconsciously transferred to the car.

In this ad the positive qualities of lungs, as a central organ in pumping oxygen round our bodies, are being transferred onto forests, to suggest their importance for our planet. It therefore implies that the world’s forests are responsible for keeping the earth alive, in the same way our lungs keep us alive. Likewise, just as damage to our lungs can result in poor health and death, deforestation, can leave the world unhealthy and even dead.

Importantly advertisers like to associate their message with current cultural fads. This ad greatly resembles ads aimed at getting people to stop smoking which are very common these days. In doing so this ad effortlessly ‘takes on’ the messages and conations of stop smoking ads and the fear associated with them.

By associating the forests with lungs this ad also personifies forests and transfers them into a concept, which is more familiar to us. The result is ‘increased emotional connections… where little emotional connection exists naturally’ (Delbaere, McQuarrie and Phillips, 2011, p. 123). Delbaere et al. (2011) argue that this works because relationships with people are commonly built on personality and emotional connections.

WWF want you to emotionally invest because the ad works through fear and guilt. Negative emotions such as these are often used in social marketing (non-profiting marketing) to appeal to peoples need to conform to social norms (Bearden and Rose, 1990) as they have been proven to be more effective than positive emotional appeals (Wheatley and Oshikawa, 1970). Brennan (2008) would argue that this ad therefore works by creating an emotional imbalance or discomfort so that we are motivated to engage in the desired behavior of the ad, raising awareness about deforestation, in order to decrease this discomfort.

Bearden, W. O, & Rose, R. L. (1990). Attention to social comparison information: An individual difference factor affecting consumer conformity. Journal of Consumer Research, 16, 461-471

Brenana, L (2008). Fear, guilt, and shame appeals in social marketing. Journal of Business Research, 63, 140-146

Delbaere, M., McQuarrie, E. F., and Phillips, B. J. (2011). Personification in advertising. Journal of Advertising, 40.1, 121-130

Smith, G. H., & Engel, R. (1968). Influence of a female model on perceived characteristics of an automobile. Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, 3, 681-682

Wheatley, J. J., & Oshikawa, S. (1970). The relationship between anxiety and positive and negative advertising appeals. Journal of Marketing Research, 7, 85-89

Steven Cass

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