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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 26-Jan-14


Sunday 26-January-14

Beautiful Adverts

Adverts use a range of techniques, from the hard-sell approach with rapid assertive talk and pushing the product at every point, to soft-sell dreamy scenes where you think 'that's nice, but what are they selling?' Clearly they all can work, otherwise they would not be used. Advertising is not an exact science, but it is something like evolution: experiments shows what works. It's a big-bucks game and finding a new formula can have significant returns.

We all know that sex sells (at least in the right context), but what about beauty? Can you use beautiful people in adverts with the insinuation that if you use the product, then by association you will be beautiful too? And indeed it works, as the many adverts with pretty people proves.

In recent research, Debra Trampe and colleagues asked 150 subjects to rate four versions of a product poster. The poster was for either a diet product or a deodorant, and used female models with either a standard body or a with their body 'digitally enhanced' to look leaner and more attractive. Also, half the subjects were told they would have to write a review of the product, which forced them to think harder about it, while the other half were just asked for first impressions.

Those subjects who gave only first impressions rated both products higher when the more attractive model was used in the poster. Those who had to think about the product rated the diet product higher for the attractive model, but were not swayed by beauty in the advert for deodorant. A second study using shampoo and a home computer confirmed the findings.

The bottom line is that, aside from ethical concerns, there seems to be little harm in using beauty in much advertising, although sometimes, including when the product is beauty-irrelevant and the viewer is paying close attention, it adds no value.

It is also possible that beauty can be harmful, for example where you want the viewer to associate more with the person in the advert. For this, many adverts now use 'people like me'. Cleaning products is typical. At one time this was shown using a primly-dressed housewife. These days it is more likely to be a harried person with kids rushing all over the place.

Trampe, D., Stapel, D., Siero, F., and Mulder, H. (2010). Beauty as a tool: The effect of model attractiveness, product relevance, and elaboration likelihood on advertising effectiveness. Psychology and Marketing, 27 (12), 1101-1121

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