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.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


This 2015 Fairy Liquid advert depicts a child complaining that the bottle of Fairy washing up liquid is ‘taking ages to run out’, and the child grows impatient as he wants to use the empty bottle to build a spaceship. Clearly, the main point this advert is trying to make is that Fairy liquid lasts so much longer than competitor products (which the child is used to). Therefore, this can be described as an advert that uses the competition template as outlined by Goldenberg, Mazursky & Solomon (1999).

This advert also interestingly points out an advantage of the product through a negative. In the past there has been some debate as to whether positive or negative advertising is more effective. Negative advertising is a strategy that focuses on the negative things about competitors rather than the positive aspects of the product being advertised. This has been found to be effective for political campaigns (James & Hensel, 1991), possibly due to the effect of the negativity bias. Negativity bias is the tendency for people to place greater value on negative information when making evaluative decisions (Kanouse & Hanson, 1987). Furthermore, the Theory of Planned Behaviour would suggest that if the advertisement can alter the consumer’s attitudes towards competitor brands, this could alter the consumer’s intentions of whether to purchase such products (Azjen, 1991). Therefore, if the advert can successfully encourage a negative attitude towards competitors, this may increase the likelihood that customers will purchase the advertised product (see diagram). However, some studies have reported that negative advertising can be less effective than positive advertising, especially in terms of whether consumers are likely to accept claims made (Jain, 1993).

This advert interestingly appears to strike a balance between both. By implying that Fairy liquid lasts longer than competitor brands or non-branded alternatives, this is subtly employing negative advertising. But this advert does not appear to be explicitly negative, such as other negative ads like the one from Burger King below. This way the advert can hopefully have the effect of a negative ad, without the cost of explicitly bashing other brands.


Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational behavior and human decision processes50(2), 179-211.

Goldenberg, J., Mazursky, D., & Solomon, S. (1999). The fundamental templates of quality ads. Marketing science18(3), 333-351.

Jain, S. P. (1993). Positive versus negative comparative advertising. Marketing Letters4(4), 309-320.

James, K. E., & Hensel, P. J. (1991). Negative advertising: The malicious strain of comparative advertising. Journal of Advertising20(2), 53-69.

Kanouse, D. E., & Hanson Jr, L. R. (1987). Negativity in evaluations. In Preparation of this paper grew out of a workshop on attribution theory held at University of California, Los Angeles, Aug 1969.. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

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