Living in a Social World
Psy 324: Advanced Social Psychology
Advertising: Appealing to Fun
By: James Lesniak
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The main goal of the persuasion in advertising is to change/strengthen one's attitude toward a certain product or service. An attitude refers to the general evaluations that people may hold of themselves, others, objects, and issues. Many advertisers of beer, cigarettes, and vacation products and leisure services use the products appeal to a person's desire for fun and pleasure. There are many examples of advertisements that use this sort of appeal. One such campaign is the recent "Joe Camel" series of ads. Another by the cigarette company Newport has had a successful long running campaign called "Alive with Pleasure." The pictures in these ads depict young men and women as horsing around and having fun. This ad uses the peripheral route to persuasion in that it tries to avoid the active and conscious cognitive process of the central route. The advertisers focus on the peripheral route so that their audience, the consumers, will overlook the real task of the ad- to sell cigarettes. The advertisers would like the consumer to associate the fun that the characters are experiencing with Newport cigarettes. Peripheral route processing ignores the facts of cigarette smoking which would be more noticeable during central route processing. Many people fail to realize that there aren't any cigarettes in the ads even though these ads are cigarette ads. Since the emphasis is taken away from the cigarette itself, peripheral route thinking would fail to recognize the dangers of smoking, especially Cancer. Instead, the ads try to induce the consumer to identify or attribute the people having fun with Newport cigarettes.
The self perception theory can explain this phenomenon. The self perception theory reasons that people assume that the behavior of other people and the context in which it occurs provides information about the presumed attitudes of the people (Bem, 1972). So, according to the self perception theory a consumer would identify the behavior of smoking Newports as being indicative of people with fun loving attitudes. The problem that advertisers need to overcome with using the peripheral route is the strength of the attitude change via the peripheral route. According to recent studies, attitudes formed are more resistant to change when it involves issue relevant thinking (active and conscious thinking) which involves the central route. What can advertisers do to combat weak attitude strength when using the peripheral route? One method is to continually pair the message cues (i.e. Alive with Pleasure) with the product (Newport cigarettes). The Newport ads are consistent in pairing their slogan "Alive with Pleasure" with the scene of men and women having fun. Advertisers may also take advantage of the effect of recency and frequency of viewing ads. A person is more likely to relate to a product or advertisement that they have just experienced because it is still fresh in their memory. Mere exposure explains the effect that exposing consumers to the product several times will increase the liking of that product. In a study by Zajonc (1968), he demonstrated that presenting the same object to people on multiple occasions increased liking for that object. This explains why commercials run for an extended length of time until a new advertisement is used.
Many particular products and advertisements can be analyzed and explained via the peripheral route of cognitive processing using the attitude strengtheners of frequency and recency. Ads for alcohol, cigarettes, and vacation products and services are the most commonly found ads using this type of persuasion strategy. Advertisers who are unable to use the appeal to fun and pleasure may use other appeals with different advertising strategies. Other appeals may be the an appeal to health and fear or the advertisers may appeal to a person's need to be unique or vain.
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