For this blog post, I’ve been asked to write about chapter four of “Made to Stick” by Dan and Chip Heath. This chapter talks about credibility of a story or campaign. Even if a campaign really does have significant information behind its message, if it isn’t presented in a way to show credibility, the message will not be effective. Statistics, for example, only aid in the zoning-out process of a reader or listener. However, if stats can be applied to life-like contexts, the example is more human and everyday, making it easier for a person to remember and be affected by the information. Another typical problem with credibility is the process of matching this humanizing technique with the information so it actually makes sense.

One example of a campaign ABSOLUTELY FAILING at this is the the “Above the Influence” campaign. One of the most laughable ads is the one of the three boys walking up to a horse and pulling its tail so it will kick them. Two of the boys say, “Watch this, it is so cool,” while the other boy walks away.

The problem with this ad campaign is that being kicked with a horse has nothing to do with smoking marijuana. You won’t get kicked by a horse if you smoke. You won’t have the same effects that the boys have to their knees if you smoke. Getting kicked by a horse has NOTHING to do with smoking marijuana.

Most of the other “Above the Influence” ads are similar in this way. To avoid this and make it more credible, the foundation could think about creating an ad campaign mocking the Mac ads. Have two college students talking in front of a blank background about what they did that weekend. The non-smoker discusses hiking, running, getting homework done, visiting friends, traveling or going to a concert. Meanwhile the college student that smokes will talk simply of smoking, eating and sleeping. They could even brag about never leaving the house.

This kind of an ad is credible because those who have smoked and know that the effects don’t include a horse-kick to the knees, will take this ad seriously. The ad with the horse may make people laugh, but it is in no way going to make someone live “above the influence.”



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2 responses to “Credible

  1. Stephanie… how do you KNOW that being kicked by a horse is nothing like smoking marijuana. Did you do research in that area for this blog post? 🙂

    Also, I’m curious about your statement that the above the influence campaign is absolutely failing. Is that your impression of the campaign or is it shown somewhere that the above the influence campaigns aren’t making a dent, or their target market is above their influence (ha!).

    I love those advertisements, and I find them influential to me… but then again I don’t fall into their target market as I am part of the “D.A.R.E” generation. When I watch those ads I sometimes wonder if they cater more to parents/teachers to give them a sense that the war on drugs is actually getting somewhere. But who knows for sure. But it is interesting to think about the actual translation of the message (a serious one) and the adoption of the target to actually change their behavior. It would be interesting to see what angle is most affective in creating behavior change.

  2. stephaniemcculley

    I remember the D.A.R.E campaign! I was in middle school. I had forgotten about it until now.

    I agree that the the above the influence is funny, and in that way, somewhat memorable. However, I don’t get the impression (I asked my little sisters and a few of their friends) that the above the influence campaign has any effect on their decision to smoke or not. The ads are humorous, but I seriously doubt that a pre-teen is going to be offered weed, think to themselves, “no horse-kick for me,” then say no.

    But by “failing” I meant in terms of the Heath’s credibility criteria. I haven’t seen any research on what kind of results these ads have had on their target, so I can’t necessarily say the campaign is failing in general.

    Still, when I see the talking dog commercial (the one where the girl’s dog tells her that he doesn’t like it when she’s high), I can’t help but think, “I’ve never heard of anyone hallucinating on marijuana and I’ve NEVER seen a talking dog. Not fair. I want a talking dog.”

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