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

Flyering at the Fringe! Please just see my show!

The effects of a range of flyering techniques and the behaviour change principles behind them on potential audience members.

I have spent the last two Augusts in Edinburgh at the Fringe Festival performing stand-up comedy with the Warwick Comedy Society. It is an incredibly vibrant and thrilling month but needless to say it is also very stressful, with the continuous worry – what if no one comes to the show? There are over 3,000 shows across 300 venues being performed every day. So needless to say your flyer and your flyering technique are very important when it comes to getting an audience. You can barely walk 100m down the Royal Mile without acquiring 20 bits of paper, so what makes flyering effective? This module got me taking a more critical reflective look at my time in Edinburgh, and the flyering techniques I saw.

Mere exposure:  
Those with enough money too, were able to buy big wall and bus stop posters everyone saw every day while walking past. By simply being presented with the same piece of information multiple times you increase the change of a behavior change, specifically an action the information was encouraging you to pursue (Cacioppo & Petty, 1989). Of course here that is to see the show the poster/flyer is advertising. This also enabled repetition of message without any extra effort from the performer. Others plastered their flyer everywhere they could, on bar tables, in windows, on lampposts, on trees. Although an A5 flyer is much smaller than a wall poster this was still very effective. This will have the same cognitive effect of making the viewer ‘like’ the stimulus more each time they see it, each time increasing the likelihood they will be persuaded by it. (Gordon & Holyoak, 1983)
I saw these two posters at least 10 times a day

Foot in the door technique:
The foot in the door technique is where you initially ask for something small with the intention of later securing a larger action (Freedman & Fraser, 1966). I saw the foot in the door technique being used as follows:
1.       Have a catchy opening line to the attention of a passer by (foot in)
2.       Get them to stop and chat to you  to find out more about the show and
3.       Convince them to buy a ticket (bigger action which was ultimate goal from the beginning)
To date the best line anyone trying to get me to see their show has said is ‘excuse me mama do you love free comedy and hate fascism?’
To which I responded ‘yes’ and stopped to find out more. I was interested until he said tickets were £12. As a broke student I was picking my paid shows wisely. But I was seriously considering seeing it because of the conversation. Whereas if I had just been handed the flyer, the price would have put me off.

Looking back the Fringe is really one big negotiation.
Lots of performers who are flyering for themselves swap flyers with other performers, agreeing to go to each other’s show. This way you both gain something/ get what you wanted. Also longer term its good networking!
FREE TICKETS: sometimes a flyer offers you a free ticket if you promise to come of if the show is about to start! Once this method was used on me to trick me into going into an almost empty room to see a piece of theatre I had no intention of seeing. However the opposite also happened I hung around near a venue of a show I wanted to see but couldn’t afford to in the hope of getting a free ticket – and I did!

Celebrity endorsement/ higher authority:
Some less well known but still professional comedians had reviews from more well-known/ TV comedians on their flyers. Some also had reviews from reputable comedy sources such as Chortle and The Skinny as well as newspapers. This influences our cognitive processes and convinces us that the act on the flyer is like or as good as the individual who is endorsing them. This is because we take celebrity opinions to be of greater value (Muda, Musa, Mohamed & Borhan, 2013).

‘last ticket!’    ‘Sold out for the next two days!’      ‘Last date!’
Were also phrases I frequently heard. Lee and Seidle looked at narcissists and their purchasing in scare situations. Now while I can’t assert a percentage of people who are narcissists at the fringe I believe it is fair to say an environment full of comedians and actors looking for their big break will contain a high percentage of narcissists, hence I thought this experiment was relevant. They found that narcissists have a stronger preference for scarce products (Lee & Seidle, 2012). Narcissists assign a higher symbolic value to something when they know it is scares. I saw many individuals who were not paying much attention flyerers be sucked in when they heard ‘last ticket’. Or rush towards the half price hut when they heard only 10 tickets left for tonight’s performance of Hamlet! ( there were actually 7 productions of hamlet on at the fringe last year which I thought was pretty funny)
It also makes you think the show is good, because so many others are going to see it, even though this fact does not in itself guarantee the show is good. This plays into social proofing, which is where we look to others to gage an idea of how we should act. If we see others rushing to see a particular show, it will make us think maybe we should do the same.

It would be a lie if we didn’t admit the attractiveness of the flyerer could affect whether you stopped to talk or not (Till & Busler, 2000). This is due to a cognitive bias known as the Halo Effect, we believe that those who are physically attractive will have other positive traits. In this context we are likely to perceive someone who we see as attractive to be better at stand up or theatre than someone who we don’t perceived as attractive. Even though we know that these two things are not causally related.


Cacioppo, J., & Petty, R. (1989). Effects of message Repetition on Argument Processing, Recall, and Persuasion. Basic And Applied Social Psychology, 10(1), 3-12.

Daneshvary, R., & Schwer, R. (2000). The association endorsement and consumers’ intention to purchase. Journal Of Consumer Marketing, 17(3), 203-213.

Freedman, J., & Fraser, S. (1966). Compliance without pressure: The foot-in-the-door technique. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 4(2), 195-202.

Gordon, P., & Holyoak, K. (1983). Implicit learning and generalization of the "mere exposure" effect. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 45(3), 492-500.

Lee, S., & Seidle, R. (2012). Narcissists as Consumers: The Effects of Perceived Scarcity on Processing of Product Information. Social Behavior And Personality: An International Journal, 40(9), 1485-1499.

Muda, M., Musa, R., Mohamed, R., & Borhan, H. (2013). Celebrity Entrepreneur Endorsement and Advertising Effectiveness. Procedia - Social And Behavioral Sciences, 130, 11-20.

Till, B., & Busler, M. (2000). The Match-Up Hypothesis: Physical Attractiveness, Expertise, and the Role of Fit on Brand Attitude, Purchase Intent and Brand Beliefs. Journal Of Advertising, 29(3), 1-13.

Ul-Abideen, Z., & Saleem, S. (2018). Effective advertising and its influence on consumer buying behavior. European Journal Of Business And Management, 3(3), 55-65. Retrieved from

Wyckham, R., Banting, P., & Wensley, A. (1984). The language of advertising: Who controls quality?. Journal Of Business Ethics, 3(1), 47-53.

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