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 5, 2015

Attractive models don't sell?!

                                Image 1                             Image 2

Above are two adverts selling the same j’adore Dior perfume with the same model, Charlize Theron. The advert in image one shows the perfume placed next to a close-up of an attractive female model that is showing a large amount of skin provocatively. At first it may seem difficult to determine what is the main focus of this advert due to the model being so close-up. The advert in image two is different to the first, even though it has the same attractive model she is place in a less prominent position in the frame, she is more covered wearing an elegant dress, and overall the ad has a less sexualised feel to it. Thus there is more focus on the product in image two. The first advert is not as effective as the second advert due to these differences.

Support for this assumption comes from a paper by Wan, Ansons, Chattopadhyay and Lebdoe (2013) who examined the impact of either blatant or subtle exposure to idealized female images on their attitude towards the brand endorsed by the models and on their self evaluation. They found that when exposure to an idealized model blatantly (as in image 1), potential female customers employ a defensive coping strategy, which is to attack and scorn the idealized image to restore positive self-views creating positive self-ratings (shown in figure 1, M=3.39). Idealized images that have this defense coping strategy applied to them leads to the brand being rated more negatively, as the advert becomes associated with negative reactions (shown in figure 2, M=4.19).

On the other hand, when exposure is subtle, potential female customers go through an automatic process of social comparison, which leads to negative self-rating (shown in figure 1, M=2.28), however the brands are rated more positively (shown in figure 2, M=5.35).

  Figure 1: Effect of exposure on self-esteem ratings

  Figure 2: Effect of exposure on attitude towards the brand

With this in mind, for Dior to be more successful in selling their brand, and indeed the perfume, they should consider using subtle exposure of idealized females in their upcoming adverts (such as in the advert for image 2). This should be true for any company who are trying to appeal to the general female population. This conclusion can be made based on the findings by Wan et al (2013) that when exposed subtlety to idealised females, potential female customers rated the brand more positively, leading to the likelihood of a successful purchase. 

Another technique which may be more persuasive based on what has just been said would be to use 'Just Plain Folks: Similarity Altercast'. If this was used to advertise, a person who is 'just like you' (so a model more like the average woman) would be used to sell a product, in this example perfume. It has been shown that we tend to like others who are similar to us so increasing source-target similarities could be effective at increasing compliance to purchasing the product.  


Wan, F., Ansons, T. L., Chattopadhyay, A., & Leboe, J. P. (2013). Defensive reactions to slim female images in advertising: The moderating role of mode of exposure. Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes, 120, 37-46.

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