The NSPCC Child’s Voice Appeal is just one example of where children are the forefront of a TV advert asking for donations. The appeal is centred around the concept that children of domestic and sexual abuse cannot speak up and need someone to speak to or an adult to speak out for them to stop their torment.
The persuasive technique at use here is altercasting. Altercasting is about placing the recipient of the message into a social role, this role provides the recipient with certain responsibilities which further structure and shape their future interaction. Once they accept the role, a number of social pressures are brought about. In this case the recipient is put in the role of child protector, a child is vulnerable and defenceless and the recipient feels responsible for nurturing and protecting the child. One part of the advert says ‘If Joel had a voice he’d ask for help but he needs an adult who will speak out to protect him’. The viewer immediately feels as though they need to protect the child. The advert quickly provides a solution to the problem which involves the help of the viewer. They claim that by giving £2 a month you can make sure they’re there whenever a child cries out for them to help so that no child suffers in silence.
This effect was demonstrated by Pratkanis and Gliner (2004-2005). They conducted a study whereby participants received a technical message (the existence of a 10th planet in a solar system) or a protective message (nuclear disarmament) from either a child or an expert. They found that when the child argued against nuclear arms she was much more effective than when she argued for the existence of a 10th planet in the solar system. In contrast, the expert was much more effective at arguing the technical message than the protective message. This is illustrated in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Mean message effectiveness as a function of level of source and message treatments.
This validates that communicators are more effective when they argue a subject matter consistent with the demands and expectations of their social roles. In this case, children are favourable for persuading viewers of a message that requires protection.
Pratkanis, A. R., & Gliner, M. D. (2004-2005). And when shall a little child lead them? Evidence for an altercasting theory of source credibility. Current Psychology, 23, 279-304.