Monday, February 15, 2010

Positive Reinforcement vs. Negative Consequences

So, my good friend HameDMC just sent me a tweet just before with a link to this ad:

Which is a pretty awesome ad from the UK which is AMAZINGLY shot. Quite beautiful for a road safety ad. Hamish's comment was:
It got me thinking about social marketing type messages in New Zealand and how we try to initiate behavioural change.

I think one of the more interesting recent switches from negative consequences to positive reinforcement is Water Safety New Zealand.

The previous Swim for Life message was 'If you don't learn to swim you're like a baby in the water' and this was the TVC:

I guess my issue with it is that not only is it called 'Helpless' but surely it would make the viewer feel helpless too if they are not a competent swimmer. I know that there is a call to action, but it would still be pretty tough making the call to get swimming lessons.

However their 2010 campaign is much more positive. I can't find it on You Tube, but you can find it here.

I like the way it addresses the problem and then gives a solution. It also focuses more on one audience (which must have been much nicer for the TV buyer) - parents. Get your kids to learn how to swim. Here are some reasons why you should get your kids used to the water. Here are some starting ideas. Much better.

Overall, I can understand the shock/scare tactic ads and I absolutely think that they have their place, but I think that when we are bombarded by these ads, they tend to lose their impact.

I'm a big believer in offering a solution when you tell people about a problem. While the scare tactics and negative consequences will show an audience what they don't want, it doesn't offer the viewer the alternative, or how not to get into the situation in the first place.

I'm interested if anyone else has any comment on this. What direction does a social marketing message need to take for you to notice, or change your behaviour? Or is it different for different behavioural changes?

Also, you should all support Hamish - he is doing Round the Bays, and you will all feel better if you donate and support the Heart Foundation.


Mishon8 said...

I don't know that either positive or negative are inherently better. There is an element of freshness needed for cut-through. The shock ads had this initially but we will even be getting desensitised to them with overexposure.

Kat said...

I'm a smoker and so I'm one of the target market for those anti-smoking ads. Here's what I tend to find...

I responded best to the ads which showed a couple giving up - complete with failures. I actually rang quit line and I managed to quit for 8 months.

Those gross ones? The ones with "this is the brain of a smoker" or whatever? I watch one of those and I immediately want a cigarette.

I think it's pretty simple: scare tactics don't tend to work, positive reinforcement does.

iChild said...

Thanks for your comments guys.

I guess it is a case by case basis.

Interesting your comments on the anti-smoking ads Kat, I work on The Quit Group's advertising, it's great to hear that you responded to the Video Diaries series.

If you decide that you want to give up again, give the Quitline a call again. Its OK to relapse, most people do. Set another quit date and give it another shot.