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, February 6, 2014

Enough sausages to hang yourself

This ad describes obesity as suicide because of its destructive effects on health. The close-up of a tilted neck in a noose of sausages is daunting. The eyes are drawn to the sausages, which serve as a point of interest because they are off-centre. This increases the vividness of a man being hung by a string of sausages. The ad promotes bariatric surgery, a procedure to reduce the size of the stomach in order to decrease food consumption.

The ad employs the pictorial analogy template – replacement version (Goldenberg, Mazursky & Solomon, 1999). This means that the themes of sausages and suicide are merged because the shape of a string of sausages is similar to a noose. Death from obesity happens due to overeating processed foods such as sausages. This indicates to the audience that intentionally eating such foods constitutes intentional damage to health. Goldenberg et al. (1999) found that pictorial analogy ads were the most common type of template used in high quality ads, which in turn, suggests that the use of such a pictorial analogy should expect to successfully change attitudes toward obesity.

Within this template are persuasive techniques. The use of the ‘obesity is suicide’ metaphor causes the audience to realise that a poor diet is life-threatening. Metaphors imply a solution for an issue (Pratkanis, 2007), in this case, to take away the obesity to stop killing oneself. Sopory and Dillard (2002) analysed attitudes after participants read a persuasive message, and found greater attitude change when the persuasive message used a metaphor. Metaphors need cognitive elaboration in order to be understood, leading to a more grounded trace in memory (Sopory & Dillard, 2002). The audience should remember this ad when they next encounter sausages and reconsider dietary choices with their health in mind.

The distressing realisation that a poor diet can kill invokes fear, which causes the ‘negativity effect’ (Pratkanis, 2007). This means that people are more influenced by negative information. The link to intentional death is, of course, negative. Hodges (1974) asked participants to categorise personality adjectives into high, medium or low importance. Participants gave more weight to the unfavourable attributes, demonstrating a greater regard for the negative. Therefore, the audience should be more persuaded to change their attitude toward their health because this ad employs a disturbingly negative event to emphasise the consequences of obesity.

It is important to highlight that the ad explicitly offers bariatric surgery as a solution to obesity. The ad invokes thoughts about dietary choices, but the audience may not actually change their food attitudes and behaviour because they know that bariatric surgery is a relatively ‘quick-fix’ solution to obesity. Food attitudes may be changed for the better if the ad were to promote the NHS Live Well website, for example, which contains information about healthy meals, exercise plans, and local sporting opportunities. This would tackle the actual root cause of obesity.


Goldenberg, J., Mazursky, D., & Solomon, S. (1999). The fundamental templates of quality ads. Marketing Science, 18, 333-351.

Hodges, B. H. (1974). Effect of valence on relative weighting in impression formation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 30, 378-381.

National Health Service. Live Well – NHS Choices. Retrieved from

Pratkanis, A. R. (2007). Social influence analysis: An index of tactics. In A. R. Pratkanis (Ed.), The science of social influence: Advances and future progress (pp. 17-82). New York: Psychology Press.
Sopory, P., & Dillard, J. P. (2002). The persuasive effects of metaphor: A meta-analysis. Human Communication Research, 28, 382-419.


Hannah Smith



1 comment:

  1. Good Hannah, especially you're suggestion at the end. It displays your engagement with the subject matter.


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