Advertising in the mind of the consumer. Task 1 – Persuasive Advertising Theories
Any form of paid-for media used by marketers to communicate and influence their target audience is called advertising (Yeshin 2006). Furthermore, effective advertising is, almost always, persuasive advertising (O’Shaughnessy and O’Shaughnessy 2004). According to Yeshin (2006) the average person is exposed to around 1300 commercials per day and in such competitive environment it is considered that those who best persuade are those who win. But what exactly is persuasion in advertising? As Sutherland and Sylvester (2000) state that persuasion is an attempt to influence a consumer in favor of purchasing given good or service. Through the years many theories have been suggested to explain which way of persuasion is the most effective one (O’Shaughnessy and O’Shaughnessy 2004). Some consider altering behaviuor and making association as the most effective way, others suggest that the key is in following few simple stages when processing the information, or maybe the effective persuasion taps into the subconscious mind (ibid)? By critically analyzing and applying different models to example advertisements this essay would try to answer the same question by comparing Behavioral and Cognitive theories.
Behavioral theory seeks to explain human behavior as series of learned responses to external environmental factors, which the persuader could alter to form people’s behavior (O’Shaughnessy and O’Shaughnessy 2004). Although there are several forms of behaviorism, this essay will focus on one of them – Classical Conditioning.
According to O’Shaughnessy and O’Shaughnessy (2004) Classical (Pavlovian) Conditioning, introduced as major theory in advertising by J.B Watson is a four-stage learning proces involving reflexes. The method could be explained in the form of Stimulus – Response (Macklin 1986). A stimulus is an external cue that elicits a response and the response is a behaviuor, emitted as a consequence of a stimulus (ibid). According to Macklin (1986) Classical conditioning requires the existence of an unconditioned stimulus (US) – stimulus that causes a reflexive response and an unconditioned response (UR) – reflexive, unlearned reaction to an unconditioned stimulus. The process also requires a conditioned stimulus (CS) – stimulus that evokes a conditioned response, because of being paired with an unconditioned stimulus and a conditioned response (CR) – the learned response that occurs to the conditioned stimulus (ibid). In few words attaching an US (e.g. provocative imagery) to an advert can make the advertised product (the CS) to evoke the same feelings towards the product as were evoked by the US (O’Shaughnessy and O’Shaughnessy 2004). For instance the example given in Appendix I could be explained from a classical conditioning perspective – the masculine, rugged image (cowboy) could be considered as the US, which leads to the UR – the positive “macho” feeling that it evokes. The cigarettes are the CS and then after a linkage between the masculine image and the cigarettes the CR is evoked – the Marlboro brand itself is generating the same positive emotions, which previously were generated by the image alone.
Ryan et al. (2000) explain Classical conditioning as a means in which people learn by associations.
According to Carmichael (2004) persuasion by association has proven to be one of the most effective techniques of persuasion as long as the advertisements associate the product with qualities and behaviors valued by the target audience. As stated in Appendix I Marlboro brand in the 1950s has been perceived as feminine product, but during and after the Marlboro Man campaign the brand has been perceived in the opposite way. It could be considered that Marlboro Man campaign achieved such success because of the associations that the consumers make between themselves and the image of the masculine man that the Marlboro brand implies (see Appendix I).
Since it could be argued that products such as cigarettes or alcohol could bring profits just because of their addictive nature (Carmichael 2004), another example could be provided (see Appendix II).
From a persuasive point of view it could be considered that the SMART “Fun for Two” advert has achieved its positive outcome because of the appropriate association between the skateboarding and the car’s attributes (see Appendix II). In the advert the action (first ever two-man skateboarding), seems like one unique, fun and adventurous activity for two; taking place in the urban city environment. The activity associated with the image of the Smart car should evoke the same feelings towards the car itself.
It could be also suggested that the music in this particular advert could be the unconditioned stimulus. For example the rock music (US) could intend to evoke excitement (UR), which could be considered as key product benefit – exciting to drive Smart For two (CR).
However, according to O’Shaughnessy and O’Shaughnessy (2004) some theorists argued that classical conditioning is focused on relatively basic ways of learning, because it rejects any possibility that the organism is doing the thinking part of the process. Furthermore Yeshin (2006) suggests that Behaviorism is overshadowed by Cognitive psychology, because it takes under consideration the consumer’s motivation and then describes a path of events of which the consumer “goes trough” following exposure to advertising. But does it always work?
One Cognitive model of describing how consumers process persuasive messages is the Elaboration Likelihood Model (Scholten 1996). According to SanJose-Cabezudo et al (2009), while Behaviorism focuses on creating people’s behaviuor, the ELM explains the changes in already formed attitudes. As Um (2008) states there are two paths to persuasion: central and peripheral. The Central route occurs when the consumer’s motivation concerning the product is high and the forming of the attitude goes through careful consideration of the information received, while the Peripheral route occurs when the consumer examines the message quickly or focuses on the peripheral cues such as music, attractive person etc. (Petty et al 1983).
Applied to the example provided in Appendix I, the consumer should take the peripheral path, since cigarettes are low involvement product, where the image of the masculine man should be the main cue for affecting person’s attitude. SanJose-Cabezudo et al. (2009) states that peripheral route leads to short-term shaped attitudes, which contradicts with the real life fact – nearly three decades long success of the Marlboro Man campaign (see Appendix I). On the other hand it could be considered that the success of the campaign might be a result from the constant associations made between the product and the image of the cowboy (masculine man), which Marlboro brand implies – theory explained above by classical conditioning.
When applied to the advert of Appendix II, ELM suggests that the consumer should take the central path since the product requires high-involvement and careful consideration, because of the amount of resources that need to be invested if persuaded to purchase it. The ELM implies that for a high-involvement product central route cues should be affecting the shaping of people’s attitudes, moreover, when central path taken the cues from the peripheral route should be irrelevant (SanJose-Cabezudo et al. 2009). However, in the example provided the consumer does not know what product is being advertised until the last few seconds of the advert. Explained from ELM perspective the person exposed to the advert is supposed to take the peripheral route at first. But then the advertised product is Smart car, it should have been considered as high-involvement product and the person should have taken the central path. As Yeshin (2006) states the biggest limitation that all Cognitive approaches have is that they assume that those exposed to advertising respond to it in strictly ordered sequential way. Furthermore, Brierly, cited by Yeshin (2006) states that there is not a single evidence, suggesting that people behave in this sequential, rational way.
Weilbacher (2001) suggests that the ELM has advantage over the other cognitive approaches, because it presents two separate ways of changing attitude. However, in some cases the model fails to explain some advertisements because it distinctly separates the two paths and originally does not suggest cross-route existence (SanJose-Cabezudo et al. 2009). As Scholten (1996) states much of the value of the ELM is obtained from “stimulating attention to advertising effects that either go beyond the model or go against it.”
From the arguments made above could be concluded that Behaviorism and more specifically classical conditioning could be considered as the most persuasive theory. Despite its limitations Classical conditioning has proven to be useful, standing behind some of the most successful campaigns in the history of advertising (Marlboro Man). As stated previously classical conditioning explains human behavior as four-stage learning process through association. The outcome that the advertisers seek is the conditioned response, which is the learned response, altered by the persuaders. The examples given above even show an advantage of classical conditioning over its probably biggest opponent the ELM, which fails to explain the examples provided, because of its sequential, rational nature.
Carmichael P.L. (2004) Persuasion by Association: A Content Analysis of Cigarette Advertisements Aimed at the Youth Market. MA. Rochester Institute of Technology.
Macklin, N.C. (1986) Classical Conditioning Effects in Product/Character Pairings Presented to Children. Advances in Consumer Research. [Online] 13, 198-203. Available from: http://www.acrwebsite.org/search/view-conference-proceedings.aspx?Id=6466 [Accessed 5th November 2012].
O’Shaughnessy J. and O’Shaughnessy N.J. (2004) Persuasion in Advertising. London, Routledge.
Petty, R. et al (1983) Central and Peripheral Routes to Advertising Effectiveness: The Moderating Role of Involvement, Journal of consumer research [online] 10, 135-146, Available from: http://www.worc.ac.uk/ils/40.htm [Accessed 6th November 2012].
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Sutherland, M. and Sylvester, A. (2000) Advertising and the mind of the consumer, 2nd Edition, Australia, Allen&Unwin
Um, N.H. (2008) Revisit Elaboration Likelihood Model: How Advertising Appeals Work on Attitudinal and Behavioural Brand Loyalty Centring Around Low vs. High-Involvement Product [Online] Available from: http://www.eurojournals.com [Accessed 6th November 2012].
Weilbacher, W.M (2001). Does Advertising Cause a “Hierarchy of Effects”?. Journal of Advertising Research. 43(2) [Online] Available from: http://superbrand.net/Point%20of%20view_CauseHierachyOfEffects.pdf [Accessed 6th November 2012].
Yeshin, T. (2006) Advertising. London, Cengage Learning EMEA
The Marlboro Man
PRODUCT: Marlboro cigarettes
DATE INTRODUCED: 1955
CREATOR: Leo Burnett Co.
The most powerful – and in some quarters, most hated – brand image of the century, the Marlboro Man stands worldwide as the ultimate American cowboy and masculine trademark, helping establish Marlboro as the best-selling cigarette in the world.
Today, even a mention of the Marlboro Man as an effective ad icon brings protests from healthcare workers who see first-hand the devastation wrought by decades of cigarette smoking. More than any other issue, the ethics of tobacco advertising — both morally and legally — have divided the advertising industry.
But even those ad professionals who abhor the tobacco industry will, when pressed, agree that the Marlboro Man has had unprecedented success as a global marketing tool for selling Philip Morris Cos.’ brand.
In the beginning back in the 1950s, a time when cigarettes were accepted in even the politest society, Burnett created the macho icon as a way to reposition Marlboro from a “mild as May” ladies cigarette to a product with broader appeal. The original newspaper ad from Burnett carried the slogan “delivers the goods on flavor” and it immediately sent sales skyrocketing.
By the time the Marlboro Man went national in 1955, sales were at $5 billion, a 3,241% jump over 1954 and light years ahead of pre-cowboy sales, when the brand’s U.S. share stood at less than 1%.
Even with the release in 1957 of the first article in Reader’s Digest linking lung cancer to smoking, the real men of the Marlboro ads kept ringing up sales ($20 billion that year), attracting new smokers of both genders. In 1964, the company revived the cowboy but this time he was in mythical Marlboro Country.
This vivid image paid off in 1971 when cigarette ads were banned from TV. The striking print shot of cowboys enjoying a smoke on horseback continued to fuel sales growth. In 1972, Marlboro became the No. 1 tobacco brand in the world.
As the anti-smoking movement has spread, the Marlboro Man has come under particular attack for his role in luring new customers to a cancer-causing habit.
As a commercial icon, he is both reviled and revered. Yet one measure of this icon’s clout is that no matter how minimal the imagery gets — reduced on occasion to little more than a saddle and splash of red — it still remains instantly evocative of a mythical Marlboro country, of a mythical American cowboy and of the No. 1 brand of cigarettes that gave that cowboy real lung cancer.
Source: AdvertisingAge (1999)
SMART “Fun for Two”
CLIENT: Smart UK
AGENCY: Weapon7 & AMV BBDO
MUSIC: Hanni El Khatib, You Rascal You
STARRING: Kilian Martin and Alfredo Urbon
VIDEO URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M24KaozWR5I
SMART has launched a new viral video and cinema ad featuring a pair of pro skateboarders performing stunts on the first ever two-man skateboard.
Designed to celebrate the two seats within the SMART car and communicate the brand’s ‘fun for two’ positioning, the short film was created by digital-focused creative agency Weapon7.
In the ad, expert skaters Kilian Martin and Alfredo Urbon tackle the curved urban landscape of Barcelona, attempting stunts that have never been tried before on a two-man skateboard.
Jeremy Garner, executive creative director at Weapon7, said: “We wanted the ad to represent SMART’s ‘for two’ message in a way that had never been done before. By using a pair of pro skaters, the film goes beyond merely highlighting product attributes: it captures the ethos of the SMART brand – individuality, spontaneity and fun.”
The 90 second version of the advert is airing in UK cinemas from 28 September and has so far reached around 400 000 views on YouTube.
Source: The Drum (2012)