Adverts: Cuddles, Adverts and Empathy

tayside-adYesterday’s fun story was that you can increase advertising response with hormones. The story goes, that if you administer oxcytocin (aka the cuddle hormone) to someone, and show them charity adverts – they will feel more empathetic and give more readily to the cause. There is nothing truly surprising about this, as oxcytocin has already been shown to have empathy and trust enhancing qualities in other situations. Actually, I’d go as far as to say that really, it has just added a scientific angle to common advertising wisdom.
However, there is a broader story here (and one that may be particularly useful for Social Marketing): If increases in oxytocin make individuals more responsive to advertising – then surely the lesson must be to rely on appeals/images that are likely to trigger oxcytocin release. These would be images related to things we “naturally want to cuddle”: babies, cuddly animals and (you probably guessed it) sexual images. Ethical dilemma apart, this supports why images of cute children are more likely to trigger a response for donating to charities. But it surely opens the question why some Social Marketing campaigns try to shock, fear or be disturbing?

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