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.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Loser to lady-killer, listen up.

This advert is for a Daihatsu, a functional, spacious, yet very uncool car. “Family men” needing something to drive for the school-run typically purchase it, so it definitely lacks the sexy reputation of an Audi or the flashy displays of wealth from a Lamborghini. Yet this is a very entertaining advert, as it uses humour, and taps into the sort of person that the customers of this model want to be, whilst at the same time pointing out the main desirable feature of the car- how spacious it is. They know that this car won’t fulfil all their lady-killing desires, but this advert includes them in a personal “in-joke,” whilst saying “but seriously, I can hold five children, a buggy, two suitcases, eleven lunch boxes, two dozen toys, six bricks of Lego, and your wife.”

There is a huge amount of support for humour in advertising. Sternthal & Craig (1973) explained that humour works in advertising because it creates a positive opinion of the source, resulting in a positive mood in the audience, making them more susceptible to persuasion. Worth & Mackie (1987) exposed students in either a good mood or a neutral mood to either a pro-attitudinal or counter-attitudinal message comprised of either strong or weak arguments. They found that participants who were in a good mood exhibited more signs of reduced systematic processing (an advertisers goldmine), and more attitude change than those in a neutral mood. Furthermore, their responses showed less of a contrast between strong and weak messages than those in the neutral condition. This is excellent news for the Daihatsu, as it means that the humour used in the campaign may lessen the contrast between this model and a better one.

Sternthal & Craig (1973) also claim that humour attracts attention, which makes the car more memorable. The availability bias therefore ensures we have this car in the forefront of our minds. Schwartz et al. (1991) demonstrated that participants who were asked to recall six examples of their own assertive behaviour rated themselves as more assertive than those who were asked to recall twelve examples. This is because the condition where they had to recall twelve examples was much harder to do. It can therefore be concluded that if a car was easy to recall due to a humorous advert, people may rate it more highly as they might assume that if it weren’t a good car, they would not have spent so much time thinking about it. Finally, Sternthal & Craig (1973) argue that humour may distract the audience meaning that they are less likely to produce counter-arguments against the message. In the example at hand, the audience could argue that they want a car that is a little sexier than the Daihatsu, however because its’ uncool reputation has been acknowledged in its own advertising campaign, it is protected by a humorous buffer.

To conclude, if you actually want to be a lady-killer, this is not the car for you. However if you are ever in the position of having to sell this sort of car, or indeed yourself (e.g. want to ask someone out, but are certain they are out of your league), humour is the way forward. It creates a positive opinion of the source, a positive mood in the audience, will be memorable and therefore easy to recall, and distracts the audience from all the negatives (e.g. a dodgy haircut or the fact you live in your mum’s basement). Good luck.


            Sternthal, B., & Craig, C. (1973). Humour in Advertising. Journal of Marketing, 37(4), 12-18. 

            Worth, L., & Mackie, D. (1987). The cognitive mediation of positive affect in persuasion. Social cognition, 5(1).

            Schwarz, Norbert; Bless, Herbert; Strack, Fritz; Klumpp, Gisela; Rittenauer-Schatka, Helga; Simons, Annette (1991). "Ease of retrieval as information: Another look at the availability heuristic". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 61 (2): 195–202.

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