Two years ago I found a nice surprise in the Osocio mailbox. It was from Marc Andrews. He wrote an master thesis in graphic design concerning the topic of social campaigns. I realized that this thesis must be the key document for what we are doing here on Osocio. I felt ashamed that we never shared the thesis with you.
A few weeks ago Marc contacted me again. He published the thesis on a dedicated website: www.visualrhetoric.nl. It was clear, he must be the next guest in our new [3+1] section. And I was right, check his choices below. Thanks Marc!
About [3+1]: it is sharing 3 favourite campaigns, designs or other visual things. And 1 failure, something annoying. In short: 3 x good (green), 1 x bad (red).
About Marc Andrews
Marc Andrews is an art director/graphic designer and a social psychologist. He runs a studio for visual communication in Amsterdam, called andrews:degen, focusing on campaigns, editorial design and identity development. On www.visualrhetoric.nl he published his research thesis ‘Social Campaigns: The Art of Visual Persuasion – Its psychology, its semiotic, its rhetoric’. This research investigates how visual arguments are constructed in social campaigns to persuade a target group. Social campaigns were analyzed in the context of psychology, semiotics and rhetoric.
The Dutch advertising agency ‘Kesselskramer’ developed this campaign for the Mental Health Foundation. The three campaign images show three different ‘alienated’ people whose heads have been replaced by objects. The objects illustrate the mental overload in the peoples’ heads due to their work pressure/environment. The meaning of the image is anchored by a rhetorical question ‘What’s playing on your mind?’ The visual statement is supported by the use of rhetorical figures. The exaggeration of the natural proportion of the head can be identified as an ‘hyperbole’. The repetitious representation of objects is a major rhetorical strategy for producing emphasis, amplification and emotional effect. The objects are also representing a job.
This substitution of a part of something (for example the doll heads) for a whole (the job itself, for example the teacher) is called a ‘Synechdoche’. The backgrounds of the images supports the depicted jobs.
Although the topic is serious, the approach is friendly, playful, humorous and inevitable. The rhetorical question anchors the image and stimulates a social comparison between the observer and the depicted alienated person’s head/mind on the poster, so as to say ‘what is playing in my mind?’
In this campaign for WWF, by Ogilvy & Mather, normal people in ordinary daily activities are depicted as heroes. Individuals saving the world by switching the TV off standby, switching off the light and watering their garden after 6 pm. Behaviour change on an individual scale in daily life can have a positive effect on our environment. Save energy and resources at home and be a hero like the people depicted in the campaign, fighting for a better world.
Instead of showing the dramatic consequences of peoples’ behavior on the Earth, this campaign shows which behavior should be reinforced. Everybody can be a hero and contribute to a better world by small adaption of their habits. It stimulates and shows the actions which should be done. It motivates you to become the hero. Psychologically seen it is stimulating and persuasive by giving a social proof of other individuals participating in the behavior in question. ‘Social proof’ is kind of informational social influence. Actions of others are assured to be correct behaviour in a given situation. It approaches and involves people with a positive attitude, helping to break peoples’ habits. It makes them believe in the benefit and their ability to help save the planet and supports the behavioral intention to act.
The indirect reference to comic heroes by clothes elements of the people and the style of typography could be defined as the rhetorical figure of Allusion. An allusion is a reference to another form of literature or art we know from former experience and which does not need further introduction.
The strenght of this campaign against alcoholism by the Brazilian agency Filadélfia lies in its simplicity in imagery and avoidance of depicting alcohol itself or the consumption of it. It focuses on the consequences of alcoholism. A lot of different rhetorical figures are involved to form this visual argument. Each poster depicts an object as if it is a broken piece of ceramic. The slogan anchors the objects to a social environment: the tie stands for career, the tennis ball for leisure time and the child’s shoes for family. The fusion of the object (tie, ball, shoes) and the materiality of broken ceramics is a kind of metaphor, which is an implied comparison between two things of unlike nature. The object itself is again a substitution of a part (for example the tie) of something which stands for a whole (the career). This rhetorical figure is called Synechdoche.
The slogan is formulated in a kind of a warning ‘No career/family/enjoyment can resist alcoholism’ and stimulates to ‘Ask for help’. It creates a kind of cognitive dissonance causing an uncomfortable feeling caused by conflicting simultaneous ideas: the alcoholism and the destroying of social environments. The theory of cognitive dissonance posits a motivational drive to reduce this dissonance by changing attitudes, beliefs, and actions.
The metaphorical representation of a zippo lighter fused with a grave stone communicates: ‘ smoking kills’, or to be more precise ‘the lighting up of a cigarette is the beginning of the end…’. The visual argument gives the impression that it is the lighter;s fault that smokers die. Death is often used as a symbol in anti-smoking campaigns. Elements of smoking are fused in a metaphorical way with elements of death. The campaign does not just show a lack of creativity but also its psychological effect is very questionable.
The use of fear appeals in health risk communication is a very common and popular strategy advocating behaviour change. Behaviour change is a long-term process and involves multiple discrete stages of psychological and behavioural changes. Individuals could need different kind of fear appeal messages depending on which stage they are at. Just emphasizing a threat, without promoting any perception of an effective benefit, is a doubtful approach. Why not show the positive consequences of stopping smoking, presenting the viewer with a perceived benefit which is stronger than the perceived threat? A smoker might then more easily form positive attitudes and intentions to stimulate preventive behaviour.