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Health & Sex p. 1Health in AdvertisingLet's start by exploring how health in the media may influence people in several keyareas. We'll talk a little about public health campaigns. We'll largely talk about howeveryday advertisements and entertainment messages influence our perceptions abouthealth, which likely play a larger role in our individual health choices.Why should we study how health is portrayed in the media? For starters,88% ofAmericans say that they get health information from the media- which is ahuge number. Think of how much more time we spend with the media than withmedical professionals. This high number of Americans getting health-related informationfrom the mass media may be problematic in several ways. First, health information andbehaviors presented to audiencesmay not be complete or accurate.Just as we saw with our reality and violence modules - it isn't the job or responsibility ofentertainment and persuasive media content creators to represent a true-to-life, factualand accurate representation of the real word. Portrayals of health in the media can havea range of effects on individuals exposed to them - frompositive to negative, fromweak effects to strong effects. These effects can also beintentional, i.e. the intendedoutcome of the producers of messages may the actual outcome among audiences,butthey can also be unintentional- producers might not set out to be influential inhealth areas, but they still may be, or they may have the opposite effect than wasoriginally intended.Advertisingof tobacco and alcohol and its effects on any number of audiences havebeen studied in-depth by researchers over much of the past several decades. Since the1970’s, the percentage of Americans who smoke cigarettes have declined, but of alladults nationwide, the percentage of smokers has remained relatively stable at around20% for some time (this varies across the country, more people smoke in the South, forexample, than they do on the West coast). There is a large public concern aboutadvertising cigarettes and tobacco to minors. Although cigarette ads have been bannedfrom broadcast media since 1971, other means have not been banned. Although JoeCamel has long-been retired, images of him (left) used to be as recognized as images ofMickey Mouseamong children.
Why does it matter if children recognize a smoking camel cartoon more than thehallmark Disney character? Because numerous studies have shown a link betweenincreased tobacco symbol and slogan advertising recognition and increased rates ofsmoking:The more likely a youth is to recognize smoking slogans and ads, OR viewmedia with smoking in it, the more likely she is to smoke.Although banned from broadcast advertising,cigarettes still make their way on variousscreens (and less screen-related technology such as sports arenas and in-store displayadvertising). Phillip Morris paid $350,000 for cigarette product placement inLicense toKill(a James Bond film), and $50,000 for placement inSpiderman 2, as just two recentexamples. When and how money exchanges hands for product placement in TV and filmis often not public information, so we can't always know when cigarette companies arepaying for, and possibly profiting from placement of ads. It is interesting to think about
what shows likeMad Men, set in time where more people smoked more often, and inpublic places, say about smoking cigarettes to its various (likely adult) audiences.There is also asignificant amount of concern about what adolescents may learn aboutdrinking alcohol from advertising messages.While tobacco is banned from broadcastadvertising, alcohol is not. And it isstrong self-regulation by the alcohol industry thatkeeps alcohol advertising on air.They follow several industry guidelines, including notadvertising during shows where the audience is deemed to be less than 70% of drinkingage, in order not to ruffle any feathers and invite the government to intervene.The research here is troubling to those concerned as well - a longitudinal study of youthlooked at exposure to in-store alcohol displays, magazine ads, and beer concessions atevents. Longitudinal studies look at effects over time. This study looked at exposure tothese types of alcohol advertisements in the same group of individuals when they werein 7th grade, and again when they were in 9th grade. In the measurement at the timewhen participants were in 9th grade, they also measured alcohol use.And, sure enough,those who were exposed to more alcohol advertisementswere also more likely to report more alcohol use and experimentationthanthose who were exposed to less advertisements.However, there is some silver lining inregard to alcohol advertising. There is mainly mixed results in regard to the negativeeffects of alcohol advertising onestablished drinkers.That is, among those who alreadydrink, there is inconclusive evidence that alcohol advertising influences drinkers to drinkmore alcohol than not, or to drink alcohol and then drive.What does the reading say about the relationship between food advertising andchildhood obesity?We know that advertising - whether it is explicit commercials, billboards, or in-storedisplays can be effective in selling any number of things, we perhaps should not bealarmed that this works for selling products and services that society would prefer thoseunder a certain age partake in. Let's take a brief look at suggestions for creating aneffective pro-social health campaign before discussing health portrayals inentertainment media.Health & Sex p. 2Health Campaign StrategiesMany pro-social health campaigns are created by a number of non-profit, for-profit, andgovernmental agencies witha larger goal of increasing positive health behaviorsand/or decreasing negative health behaviors.Many of these pro-social messagestake the form of Public Service Announcements, PSA's, which are typically 30scommercial spots on TV about not smoking, breast cancer awareness, anti-bullying, etc.Just as the impact of any one 30s advertisement alone likely doesn't have a huge effecton many people, the effects of one viewing of one PSA also likely has small effects onaudiences that it is targeted to. For any number of reasons, pro-health campaigns,often fail.One reason may be the relatively smaller fraction of messages that theymake up as compared to advertisements, product placements, and entertainmentmessages that are not explicitly working to improve health outcomes. While researchhas shown mixed effects for various strategies and mediums of delivery, it isconsistently shown thatincreased frequency of exposure to health campaigns,and increased exposure to health campaignsacross media(i.e. TV advertisements,
paired with doctor interventions, magazine ads, and other mediums, etc.) can combineto create larger, more positive effects.While there are several strategies that can be used that will increase the likelihood ofsuccess of any one campaign, or message, every pro-health campaignMUSTdo twothings in order to be successful (although just meeting this standard is not enough toguarantee success, it is a base level of accomplishment that must be there for the spotto be successful). These two criteria that a pro-health campaign/ message must meetare:1.Demonstrate a threat2.Provide efficacy (make sure that audiences are confident in theirability to enact behavior that will not let them succumb to the threat)Let's look at a pair of two classic anti-drug PSAs: Can you identify a clear threat? to an external site.) to an external site.)These spots generated a lot of buzz when they were introduced in the 80's/ 90's, andbecame hallmark anti-drug PSA spots sponsored in part by large governmental officesand non-profits.Thethreat does not seem clearto me. If I do drugs, or in the second spot, heroin, willmy brain be cooked sunny side up? Or will my friends and family be smeared across akitchen by the actress who starred opposite of Freddie Prinze Jr. in the 90s classic,She'sAll That?The point of these spots is that although you can do some things correctly - likematching the severity of the threat with the correct emotional tone (doing heroin is verybad, the tone there is very negative), or doing something attention-grabbing, thesespotsdo not provide a realistic threat of drug and heroin use. Further, they don'tattempt to provide the viewer withefficacy- they are told not to do something - and notgiven the tools to do so or a rationale as to why the suggested remedy will work. Pleaseview the following one or two of PSA's from the Meth Project (which are disturbing) as acontrast in demonstrating a threat:
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