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.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

"I want to be just like Daddy"

The above is an advert by NAPCAN that was aired few years ago in Australia. This advert portrays an array of negative behaviours elicited by parents, such as smoking, domestic violence and other ill-mannered behaviours that are frowned upon by society. It then goes on to show the children of these individuals imitating these behaviours, some of which can be quite distressing to see. The aim of the advert was to create awareness within parents and influence how they behave around their children; they do this using range of persuasive techniques.

One of the techniques used is the shock appeal. The images portrayed in the advert of children engaging in harmful behaviours are shocking and distressing to the audience. For example, a child is seen smoking a cigarette before putting it out on the floor, this is not the kind of behaviour that any parent would want to see their child engaging in and the idea that it could be their fault can also come as a shock to them. This could therefore lead to them wanting to change their behaviour in order to prevent the outcomes portrayed by the adverts. Research has found that using shocking content in an advertisement significantly increases attention, benefits memory, and positively influences behaviour (Dahl, Frankenberger & Manchanda, 2003). Thus, the advert uses this technique with the intention of getting parents to implement the take home message “make your influence positive”.

Similar to the use of shock appeal, fear appeal is also applied within the advert. Strong fear appeals have been seen to produce the greatest behaviour changes and promote message acceptance (Witte & Allen, 2000). Advertisers use this knowledge to their advantage in order to get their audience to comply with the message they are conveying. For most parents, the idea of their children engaging in the behaviours portrayed in the advert would create an element of fear within them, as most would not want their children to suffer the consequences that arise from such behaviours and thus would want to take the relevant precautions to prevent it from happening.

The creators of this advert have also utilised the inverted consequences template (Goldenberg, Mazursky & Solomon, 1999) within the advert.  This template involves showing the negative consequences that will occur if the audience do not follow the advice given by the advert. In the above advert, the audience is advised to “make your influence positive” and their children exhibiting socially undesirable and harmful behaviours so demonstrate the consequences of not doing. This technique has been established as quite a powerful form of persuasion, with the ability to influence individual’s attitudes and change their behaviour in accordance with the message being portrayed by the advertisement (Goldenberg, Mazurky & Solomon, 1999).

A series of strong persuasive techniques are used in this advert in an attempt to prevent parents from eliciting negative behaviours around their children and to persuade them behave in an appropriate and positive manner instead. Although we might like to believe that most parents would already take the correct precautions to ensure that they only elicit a positive influence on their children, in truth, there are many out there who do not. Therefore, we can only hope that adverts such as this have a strong enough persuasive message to help open people’s eyes to the issue presented.


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(3), 268-280.

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

Witte, K., & Allen, M. (2000) A meta-analysis of fear appeals: Implications for effective public health campaigns. Health, Education and Behaviour, 27 (5), 591-615.

Natasha Foxon.

1 comment:

  1. Really good, I especially like your introduction and conclusion to the blog.


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