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Improving the effectiveness of social advertising

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  • Full or part time
    Dr M Zawisza
    Dr D McDermott
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Research Group: Applied, Social and Health Psychology

Proposed supervisory team: Dr Magdalena Zawisza, [Email Address Removed]), Dr Daragh McDermott, ([Email Address Removed])

Theme: Consumer Psychology, Gender and Sexualities, Identity and Social Issues, Social Advertising

Summary of the research project:

This PhD project aims to test novel ways of boosting the effectiveness of social advertising with the aim to change prejudiced attitudes to specific social groups, i.e. people with mental illness, women, sexual or ethnic minorities. For example, research shows that non- traditional female portrayals in advertising are less effective (Zawisza & Cinnirella, 2010), also cross-culturally (Zawisza et al., 2016, 2018), and less frequent (Grau & Zotos, 2016). Yet the more popular gender traditional ads reinforce stereotypes and have numerous negative effects on women (Dimofte et al., 2015; Van Loo & Rydell, 2014). Gender traditional marketing practices could be changed if the non-traditional ads could be made more effective. Design and testing of such boosting techniques is the aim of this project.

The novel ad effectiveness boosting tools will utilise social perception principles as these have been shown to apply to perception of brands (Kervyn, Fiske & Malone, 2012) and ads (Zawisza, 2016). For example, the lesser effectiveness of ads utilising non-traditional female portrayals is attributed to their lower warmth or likeability (Zawisza & Cinnirella, 2010; Zawisza et al., 2016, 2018).

The PhD project will examine if manipulation of relevant social perception dimensions can boost the effectiveness of social advertisements. It will involve a series of quantitative studies ranging from preselecting appropriate stimuli to testing manipulations of relevant dimensions of social perception and their effects on ad effectiveness, brand perception and attitude change. Moreover, relevant mediators and moderators will also be investigated.

The aim of the project is to produce practical recommendations for consumers, practitioners and advertising standards agencies alike and has consumers’ well-being at heart. It may form part of a bigger collaborative project run by Dr Zawisza in Cambridge. Equipment and software such as online experimental testing platforms enabling use of Social Media will be available at ARU.

Interested candidates should come with background in social sciences, marketing and or advertising, experience in running quantitative research projects (i.e. experiments) and conducting advanced statistical analyses. Interest in experimental social psychology is essential and in consumer psychology desirable.

Where you'll study: Cambridge


This project is self-funded. Details of studentships for which funding is available are selected by a competitive process and are advertised on our jobs website as they become available.

Next steps:

If you wish to be considered for this project, you will need to apply for our Psychology PhD. In the section of the application form entitled 'Outline research proposal', please quote the above title and include a research proposal.

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