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

How much could that drink cost YOU?

The above is an advert created by the “Think: Don’t Drink and Drive” driving campaign. It uses a range of clever persuasive techniques to dissuade individuals from consuming alcohol before getting behind the wheel.

Firstly, it implements the inverted consequences template to demonstrate the serious ramifications of drink driving. This technique involves showing the negative consequences that can occur as a result of not following the recommendation of the advertisement (Goldenger, Mazursky & Solomon, 1999). In this case, the advert forces the viewer to consider the disturbing consequence “getting behind the wheel after drinking can have”; with the consequence here being the death of an innocent, beautiful stranger.  This template encourages the viewer to think about how best to avoid this consequence. The advertisement itself screams the solution: “DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE”.  Researchers have found this template to be highly persuasive, possessing a strong ability to encourage individuals to draw meaning from the advertisement, internalise the meaning, and ultimately adhere to their recommendations (Goldenger Mazurky & Solomon, 1999).

The advert also uses shock tactics to discourage drink driving. At first glance, we see a young attractive female. If we look a little closer, however, we read the tagline “Beautiful. Wasn’t she?”, and come to the shocking realisation that this girl is now dead. Dead at the hands of a drink driver. If this isn’t enough to shock the viewer into not driving whilst under the influence, I’m not sure what is. Research has frequently shown that when participants are presented with a shocking advertisement, they have a significantly better memory for both the content and overall message of the ad (Dahl, Frankenberger & Manchanda, 2003). If the shock tactics utilised in the above advert produce a similar memory benefit, it is likely that the adverts message will be remembered the next time a viewer thinks about driving home after a drink. You might be wondering how shock can have such powerful effects on a viewer. Williams (2009) argues that shock tactics are successful in generating a behaviour change in line with the advertisers cause because the content of the shocking message imprints upon a person’s consciousness so deeply that he/she is eventually forced to act upon it (Williams, 2009).

The advert also cleverly evokes an emotional response from those who view it - that of fear. Upon reading the line “Get behind the wheel after you’ve been driving and you may kill someone”, the viewer is likely to experience fear; fear at the thought of killing another as a result of being “reckless”. For the majority, this fear of causing the death of an innocent may be enough to encourage people to think twice before driving under the influence of alcohol. Fear is a powerful persuasive tool; whilst it has been found to generate feelings of tension, it also has a positive effect on viewer’s attitudes towards advertisements, making them more likely to internalise the adverts message and act in accordance with its recommendations (LaTour, Snipes & Bliss, 1996).

In sum, three powerful persuasive techniques are used in this advert in an attempt to discourage individuals from driving after drinking alcohol. Yes; these techniques are controversial, but drink driving is an issue which needs to be taken seriously. If controversial methods make the advert more salient in the viewer’s minds, and help stop fatal accidents as a result, then I for one hope they are used time and time again in future drink awareness campaigns.


Dahl, D. W., Frankenberger, K. D., & Manchanda, R. V. (2003). Does it pay to shock? Reactions to shocking and non-shocking advertising content among university students. Journal of Advertising Research, 43, 268-280.

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

LaTour, M. S., Snipes, R. L., & Bliss, S. J. (1996). Don’t be afraid to use fear appeals: An experimental study. Journal of Advertising Research, 36, 59-67.

Williams, M. (2009). Does Shock Advertising Still Work? Campaign, 16, 11.           

Jordan Green                    

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