Breaking Down Ads with the Message Learning Approach

The message learning approach (Yale Model of Persuasive Communication), developed by Hovland, Janis, and Kelley, describes how attitude formation and attitude change works. This theory had, and still has, applications to advertising and how advertising influences behavior. The message learning approach works through a “chain of persuasion,” with the stages of : Exposure, Attention, Comprehension, Yielding, Retention, and Action. Each stage represents a different aspect of the attitude formation/change process. Because the message learning approach has been applied to advertisements successfully, I figured I’d take a look at a few ads and deconstruct them by the message learning approach. Mainly, I’ll be focusing  on Attention (what about the message catches my attention?), Comprehension (do I understand the message?), and Yielding (how does the message lead to attitude change?) because some of the other stages won’t be easily discussed about in relation to an isolated ad.

Ad #1: Metro

 This ad is for the Metro news mobile app; Metro is a set of newspapers available in certain cities around the world.

Attention: Is this eye-catching enough? There is the novel component of the audience perspective coming from some sort of mailbox/newspaper box. Otherwise, there is not much going on, perhaps in order to focus the audience on the product. A good-looking person is used at the center of it, as unsurprisingly, good-looking people attract attention.

Comprehension: I think this ad rates pretty well on comprehension. The simplicity focuses the viewer’s attention on the newspaper, and they utilize a picture of what the app looks like to hammer home that message. Furthermore, the text makes it clear that you are inside the box that houses all the newspapers, and this person is getting the box even inside the car, so the link between mobile app and having the newspaper everywhere is well-drawn.

Yielding: This ad goes for the yielding concept of identification. The lady featured in the ad is on her way to work, like many people who may see this ad, so they will be able to identify with the idea of being on the go every morning and maybe not being able to get to a newsstand every day.

Ad #2: McDonald’s

This ad is for McDonald’s, specifically the large coffee. I assume it’s from somewhere in Europe, given the way the price is listed.

Attention: This ad does a nice job on using a slight illusion to grab your attention. Given the way the sky is over the liquid, you expect there to be ocean underneath, but instead, you can make out the rim of the coffee cup holding all the coffee.

Comprehension: I think this ad hits all the right notes in terms of comprehension. There is the visual analogy between the ocean and the coffee, the singular focus on the product sold, and even the price listed in the ad to let you know it is cheap to get an ocean’s worth of coffee. A simple message is easier to comprehend.

Yielding: In terms of yielding, I’m not sure that this ad in specific does anything to address that. Perhaps if the ad would feature lots of other people enjoying McDonald’s large coffee in a social manner, this ad would have to do with yielding, but on its own as it is, it doesn’t do much for yielding. I think they would rely on making the McDonald’s coffee cup ubiquitous like the Starbucks coffee cup in order to address yielding.

So despite this ads being for different kinds of products and from different countries all together, they still both contain several aspects of the message learning approach. These ads are just a small selection of the numerous ads that have elements of the message learning approach, showing that it is still an effective way to induce attitude formation/attitude change.

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