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, March 3, 2016

Listen to nurse Karen! She knows what's good for you.

This advertisement praises the many advantages regular ginger consumption entails. In addition to listing the various benefits (which in itself should already suffice to convince the rational mind) various persuasion techniques were employed in order to boost its influential impact.

Double Entendre. 

The choice of a red-haired model was no coincidence, as it creates a word play in regard to the product that is being advertised. Innuendo's are powerful in a way that they are able to catch the viewers attention and to create a connection between the ad and those who understand or notice the word play, which promotes an identification with the product in question (Bell, 1997).

The layout of the advertisement is structured in a way that is very similar to collectible cards. This is further emphasized by the use of various frames. Trading cards, such as sports or cartoon cards, which are characterized by a picture with a text underneath, have played a central role in many people's childhoods. Hence the layout will not only present itself with some sort of familiarity but might even evoke a feeling of nostalgia. Past research has shown that varying degrees of exposure can play a crucial factor when it comes to judgments of sympathy (Zajonc, 1968). In a first stage, participants in Zajonc's (1968) study were exposed to a variety of Chinese characters. In the second stage, in which they were shown a character set consisting of those they had seen before as well as new ones, they were asked to rate the 'goodness' of their meaning. Even though conscious recall for the characters was low, preferences expressed towards the familiar characters exceeded the sympathy for the newly presented ones. In addition, nostalgia is thought to be a powerful marketing technique (Reisenwitz, Iyer, & Cutler, 2004). Reisenwitz et al. (2004) found that the effectiveness of nostalgic advertisement was positively related to the subjects' nostalgia proneness, hence stronger individual tendencies elicited more positive responses to advertisements that were rich on nostalgic elements. Further, it is suspected that the driving mechanism underlying this effect is the resulting emotional response that will be attributed to the advertisement, and per extension to the product itself.
Celebrity Endorsement and Attractiveness

The celebrity endorsement technique is evoked by the use of Karen Gillan as a model. It's effectiveness is partially linked to the abovementioned familiarity effect, given that celebrities mainly consist of individuals who are an omnipresent part of our pop culture. Hence, the more we are exposed to someone the more likely it is that we appreciate that person (Saegert, Swap, & Zajonc, 1973). In that regard, Karen's involvement might be especially effective in persuading 'Dr. Who' fans viewing this advertisement. Furthermore, Atkin and Block (1983) found that the involvement of celebrities increases the perceived importance attributed to the product. By asking participants of various age groups to view alcohol ads that were either celebrity endorsed or not, they found that the image of a product was seen as more favorable when linked to a celebrity. This is further reinforced by the fact that celebrities are seen as more credible and that this heightened level of credibility will hence be associated with the product (Goldsmith, Lafferty, & Newell, 2000).

In addition to being a well known actress, Karen Gillan also possesses a certain level of attractiveness (one might say that the two are usually highly correlated). This certainly helps when it comes to advertising a product, as it has been demonstrated that attractive communicators of a message are more successful in causing an attitude change within the recipient (Chaiken, 1979). Chaiken (1979) recruited 110 communicators of varying levels of attractiveness, which were then asked to approach students on different campuses, confronting them with a persuasive message. Participants were then asked whether they agreed (measure of intention) and whether they would be willing to sign a petition (measure of behavior). Results can be seen in Table 1. (extracted from the original paper). 

As illustrated above, the approach by an attractive person elicited higher levels of both agreement and compliance of the subject.


Apart from suiting her exceptionally well, the nurse hat Karen Gillan is wearing fulfills a vital function within this ad: it creates the illusion of authority. Bushman (1988) demonstrated how a female confederate can substantially increase her credibility and hence persuasiveness by simply wearing a uniform. The differentiation between three levels of authority was made in this study, namely the absence of authority (no uniform), status authority (business suit) and role authority (uniform). In all three conditions the confederate told people in a parking lot to give change to another person. About half of the subjects complied in the no-authority and status-authority conditions, whereas role-authority showed the most success with a compliance rate of 72%. Therefore people are most likely to comply when a uniform is present and when it is context-congruent, as illustrated by 'nurse Karen' presenting the many medical benefits that are characteristic of regular ginger consumption. 


Atkin, C., & Block, M. (1983). Effectiveness of celebrity endorsers. Journal of Advertising Research, 23, 57-61.
Bell, D. M. (1997). Innuendo. Journal of Pragmatics, 27, 35-59. 

Bushman, B. J. (1988). The Effects of Apparel on Compliance A Field Experiment with a Female Authority Figure. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 14, 459-467.

Chaiken, S. (1979). Communicator physical attractiveness and persuasion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 1387.

Goldsmith, R., Lafferty, B. & Newell, S. (2000) The impact of corporate credibility and celebrity credibility on consumer reaction to advertisements and brands. Journal of Advertising Research, 29, 43–54.

Reisenwitz, T. H., Iyer, R., & Cutler, B. (2004). Nostalgia advertising and the influence of nostalgia proneness. Marketing Management Journal, 14, 55-66.

Saegert, S., Swap, W., & Zajonc, R. B. (1973). Exposure, context, and interpersonal attraction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 25, 234.  

Zajonc, R. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9, 1-27.

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