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, February 5, 2014

Babies and their Vulnerability to Locusts!

This advert for ‘Just Liquid’ hand wash employs the persuasive techniques of contrast, guilt and shock. It has the tagline “if you aren’t totally clean, you are filthy” and demonstrates this by showing a small baby (inducing associations of vulnerability and purity), with approaching locust-covered hands (associated with filth and disease). The contrast between the baby and the locusts catches the attention of the viewer, and we see the locusts in an even more negative light due to their proximity to an innocent baby who needs protection from such things. Everything is whitewashed in the background, making the bugs stand out. The bugs epitomise disease, babies are most helpless in the face of disease, they rely entirely on their caregivers to protect them from it. This provokes responsibility in the adults reading the advert- it’s their job to protect this vulnerable infant, the use of you in the tagline (‘you are filthy’) pinpoints the reader as the one who needs to take action, they are given the role of ‘Responsibility Agent’ due to the dependency of the baby on the adult, Berkowitz and Daniels (1963) showed that when an individual is placed in a position of responsibility toward a dependent they will take more measures to protect that person.

The message the advert is promoting is that you are spreading germs to people you care about (who are dependent on you) unless you’ve properly sanitized; ‘if I buy this product, I will be totally clean and baby will not be at risk’. We value hygiene and cleanliness, and we have a social responsibility towards those who are dependent on us. If we don’t meet this social responsibility, we feel guilt. This is another key persuasive method employed by this advert, it depicts not only you being ‘filthy’ but infecting someone else who is under your care. Individuals experiencing guilt are more likely to then comply with a request (Carlsmith and Gross, 1969) as they try to resolve these feelings by doing the right thing (Pratkanis, 2007) i.e. buying the product. Hayes, Thornton and Jones (2004) found that people were more likely to agree to support a charity’s cause when they were given a leaflet filled with guilt provoking images, as opposed to a leaflet filled with positive images.

The advert uses the ‘inverted consequence template’ (Goldenberg, Mazurksy and Solomon, 1999) by warning the viewer of the implications of not using the product (not using the soap means you are contaminated, and also contaminating others!) and also the ‘extreme attribute’ template (where the situation is exaggerated to unrealistic proportions) by emphasising the bacteria using the locusts, which are affiliated with diseases and plagues. This causes a shock response, in a study by Dahl et al. (2003) participants were shown three adverts, one informative, one fear-invoking and one shocking advert and asked which drew their attention the most, 84% of respondents chose the shocking advertisement ,which shows the effectiveness of this persuasion device.

Overall, ‘Just Liquid’ have created a persuasive argument for the use of their hand-wash through the use of guilt inducement and shock tactics; we must protect babies from those pesky locusts!


  • Berkowitz, L., & Daniels, L. R. (1963). Responsibility and Dependency. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 66, 429-436.
  • Dahl, D. W., Frankenberger, K. D., & Manchanda, R. V. (2003). Does it pay to shock? Reactions to shocking and nonshocking advertising content among university students. Journal of Advertising Research, 43, 268-280.
  • Carlsmith, A. M. & Gross A. E. (1969). Some effects of Guilt on Compliance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 11, 232-239.
  • Pratkanis, A. R. (2007). Social influence analysis: An index of tactics. The science of social influence: Advances and future progress, 17-82.
  • Haynes, M., Thornton, J., & Jones, S. C. (2004). An exploratory study on the effect of positive (warmth appeal) and negative (guilt appeal) print imagery on donation behaviour in animal welfare. Wiley and Sons: New Zealand.
  • Goldenberg, J., Mazursky, D., & Solomon, S. (1999). The fundamental templates of quality ads. Marketing Science, 18, 333-351.

 Jasmine Smith- Blog 2.

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