Recently in my graduate seminar class we had been discussing the extent to which entertainment has seeped into all areas of our lives. Entertainment directly and indirectly meshes with our personal and public lives. At every corner we turn, we are being targeted, marketed and focused on. Education, religions, politics, children, morality and spirituality all are fair game in this entertainment based society.
Our class was reviewing an interesting article by Emily Moyer-Guse, entitled “Toward a Theory of Entertainment Persuasion: Explaining the Persuasive Effects of Entertainment-Education Messages”
Toward a Theory of Entertainment Persuasion
In reading Emily Moyer-Guse’s article on the persuasive effects of entertainment education messages, I immediately thought of the variety of entertainment education available to the public. The article makes mention that “entertainment-education messages may be more effective and persuasive than overtly persuasive messages in certain circumstances”. This includes everything from basic children’s television shows to social campaigns for change.
With children’s televisions shows, I think of my childhood. Growing up in my house, we didn’t have cable and we were mostly limited to watching PBS. Everything from The Electric Company to Sesame Street. While The Electric Company is no longer on television, Sesame Street remains. Sesame Street is a great example of persuasive entertainment education with lessons on being different, sharing, respect for other’s feelings and property, grieving, and manners to name a few. These episodes involve the viewer with the characters allowing for transport, involvement, and identification with the story
On the other end of the spectrum is adult persuasive entertainment education. This can range from individual television episodes to social campaigns for change. One example would be the (RED) Campaign for the AIDS epidemic in Africa. http://www.joinred.com/ This campaign focuses the story of the power of individuals to make a change. Encouraging the current generation to be the one who makes the change for an AIDS free generation Featuring (RED) products from apparel to accessories, a portion of the proceeds are donated back to the campaign to fight AIDS in Africa. Their mantra of “as a consumer you have the power to make a difference” encourages individuals to make conscious choices when they are spending their money. The (RED) campaign uses products and clothing as a platform to educate the public about AIDS in Africa, while attracting (persuading!) them through the use of a story in connection with consumerism. (I am not 100% sure of the amount of money that makes it back to the actual cause, nor am I advocating this campaign, I’m just using it as an example!!)
In charity models like (RED), the organization isn’t asking individuals to go out of their way to do something they wouldn’t normally do or buy what they wouldn’t normally buy. It also capitalizes on the pleasure of shopping and spending money while making people feel good about it, partially countering the inherent regret of spending money. The model of donating a portion of proceeds as opposed to straight giving lets the target donor input their own self-interest of purchasing and using a product into the altruistic equation. Additionally, displaying such products makes the purchaser look good while both raising awareness and incentives others to do so, in an effort to be and look charitable and feel part of the movement.
This is one example of many of the purposeful use of entertainment media as part of an organized communication campaign designed to educate and persuade viewers about certain social issues.
There are several theories that can be connected with these practices – such as Social Learning Theory – where the characters in the movies, PSAs, television shows, etc. can play a role model for the audience. As well, Cultivation Theory show that media shapes how people view the world in terms of media shaping the way people perceive issues and events.