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Carrot or stick? What makes you put on your sneakers and put down the chocolate?

Friday 30 July, 2010

What makes someone stop smoking or eating a packet of Tim Tams before bed? Or motivates them to put on their sneakers and jog around the block ... or book a Pap test if they're overdue?

This is a discussion we have all the time in the Cancer Prevention Centre. And it's particularly pertinent right now as we're putting the final touches to our new PapScreen TV commercial.

Sure, we rigorously focus test our concepts and executions, but you can't focus test every woman in Victoria, nor can you create something that takes into account every comment you received.

Years of research tells us that if you want someone to stop doing something you need to shock them (the stick): show them consequences, the impact on their friends and family. The TAC does a great job of rattling cages in this regard. Quit has also traditionally taken this approach, as have government ads around drugs or alcohol. Last year our SunSmart program ran the Dark Side of Tanning ads, which aimed to debunk tanning myths and change pro-tanning attitudes.

On the other hand, if you want folks to add something to their life, we've learned you need to frame the message positively (the carrot), and show the benefits of eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise or having regular screening tests. Volkswagen call it the fun theory.

But then everyone is different. What frightens some people into action may scare someone else into complete avoidance or denial.  Then there are those desensitised types who might not even raise an eyebrow over something tantamount to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

So recently, we've seen some traditional shock advertisers trying their hand at humour or satire (cue: the Government's ‘Championship Moves' campaign targeting young male drinkers or VicRoads' controversial ‘Don't be a Dickhead' campaign). Does humour work for serious topics? 

Which ads have made you stop and think about your health recently, or caused you to change your behaviour?

Blood and guts or smiling people enjoying their life - what works for you?


My friend just gave up cancer sticks to budget into his mortgage repayments. House OR cigarettes? Car OR cigarettes? Vitality OR cigarettes? Love OR cigarettes? Beauty OR cigarettes? Baby OR cigarettes? Relationship OR cigarettes? Sexy OR cigarettes? Social Reform OR cigarettes? Community wealth OR cigarettes? Individuality OR cigarettes? Promotion OR cigarettes? Give OR cigarettes? Diamonds OR cigarettes? Holiday OR cigarettes? People who smoke for depression. 2 negatives = inability to quit, hence death is a 'cure'. 'I would never give up my clear lungs for a social bad habit' 'I would never give up my house for a social bad habit' 'I would never give up and deform my unborn child for a social bad habit' 'I would never give up on love for a social bad habit' 'I would never give up on you for a social bad habit' 'I would never give up on life for a social bad habit' I am worth far more than that. Smoking costs me opportunity to have what I want. Smoking cost more than you think. Smoking costs me a car Smoking costs me the breath of fresh air. Smoking costs me love Smoking costs me my ability to get ahead.

From: Karin, 15/04/2013

i try to work on the theory of working with the positve not the negative . talk up the benefits of being healthy and enjoying life .

From: mike, 15/04/2013

The Dark Side of Tanning ads completely shocked me, especially after I was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma. I convinced myself I was a gonner. That was not a good outcome. On the positive side, a wall poster in my GP's surgery was really effective because it helped me identify the melanoma early. Also, highlighting the survival rate with early detection would be positive and hopeful. Leanne

From: Leanne, 15/04/2013

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