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Health in Advertising

Added on -2019-09-13

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Health & Sex p. 1Health in AdvertisingLet's start by exploring how health in the media may influence people in several key areas. We'll talk a little about public health campaigns. We'll largely talk about how everyday advertisements and entertainment messages influence our perceptions about health, 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% of Americans say that they get health information from the media - which is a huge number. Think of how much more time we spend with the media than with medical professionals. This high number of Americans getting health-related informationfrom the mass media may be problematic in several ways. First, health information and behaviors presented to audiences may not be complete or accurate.Just as we saw with our reality and violence modules - it isn't the job or responsibility of entertainment 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 - from positive to negative, from weak effects to strong effects. These effects can also be intentional, i.e. the intended outcome of the producers of messages may the actual outcome among audiences, but they can also be unintentional- producers might not set out to be influential in health areas, but they still may be, or they may have the opposite effect than was originally intended.Advertising of tobacco and alcohol and its effects on any number of audiences have been studied in-depth by researchers over much of the past several decades. Since the 1970’s, the percentage of Americans who smoke cigarettes have declined, but of all adults nationwide, the percentage of smokers has remained relatively stable at around 20% for some time (this varies across the country, more people smoke in the South, for example, than they do on the West coast). There is a large public concern about advertising cigarettes and tobacco to minors. Although cigarette ads have been banned from broadcast media since 1971, other means have not been banned. Although Joe Camel has long-been retired, images of him (left) used to be as recognized as images ofMickey Mouse among children.
Why does it matter if children recognize a smoking camel cartoon more than the hallmark Disney character? Because numerous studies have shown a link between increased tobacco symbol and slogan advertising recognition and increased rates of smoking: The more likely a youth is to recognize smoking slogans and ads, OR view media with smoking in it, the more likely she is to smoke.Although banned from broadcast advertising, cigarettes still make their way on various screens (and less screen-related technology such as sports arenas and in-store display advertising). Phillip Morris paid $350,000 for cigarette product placement in License to Kill (a James Bond film), and $50,000 for placement in Spiderman 2, as just two recent examples. 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 are paying for, and possibly profiting from placement of ads. It is interesting to think about
what shows like Mad Men, set in time where more people smoked more often, and in public places, say about smoking cigarettes to its various (likely adult) audiences.There is also a significant amount of concern about what adolescents may learn about drinking alcohol from advertising messages. While tobacco is banned from broadcast advertising, alcohol is not. And it is strong self-regulation by the alcohol industry that keeps alcohol advertising on air. They follow several industry guidelines, including not advertising 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 youth looked at exposure to in-store alcohol displays, magazine ads, and beer concessions at events. Longitudinal studies look at effects over time. This study looked at exposure to these types of alcohol advertisements in the same group of individuals when they were in 7th grade, and again when they were in 9th grade. In the measurement at the time when participants were in 9th grade, they also measured alcohol use.And, sure enough, those who were exposed to more alcohol advertisements were also more likely to report more alcohol use and experimentation than those who were exposed to less advertisements.However, there is some silver lining in regard to alcohol advertising. There is mainly mixed results in regard to the negative effects of alcohol advertising on established drinkers. That is, among those who already drink, 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 and childhood obesity?We know that advertising - whether it is explicit commercials, billboards, or in-store displays can be effective in selling any number of things, we perhaps should not be alarmed 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 an effective pro-social health campaign before discussing health portrayals in entertainment media.Health & Sex p. 2Health Campaign StrategiesMany pro-social health campaigns are created by a number of non-profit, for-profit, and governmental agencies with a larger goal of increasing positive health behaviors and/or decreasing negative health behaviors. Many of these pro-social messages take the form of Public Service Announcements, PSA's, which are typically 30s commercial 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 effect on many people, the effects of one viewing of one PSA also likely has small effects on audiences 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 they make up as compared to advertisements, product placements, and entertainment messages that are not explicitly working to improve health outcomes. While research has shown mixed effects for various strategies and mediums of delivery, it is consistently shown that increased frequency of exposure to health campaigns, and increased exposure to health campaigns across media (i.e. TV advertisements,
paired with doctor interventions, magazine ads, and other mediums, etc.) can combine to create larger, more positive effects.While there are several strategies that can be used that will increase the likelihood of success of any one campaign, or message, every pro-health campaign MUST do two things in order to be successful (although just meeting this standard is not enough to guarantee success, it is a base level of accomplishment that must be there for the spot to be successful). These two criteria that a pro-health campaign/ message must meet are:1.Demonstrate a threat2.Provide efficacy (make sure that audiences are confident in their ability 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, and became hallmark anti-drug PSA spots sponsored in part by large governmental offices and non-profits.The threat does not seem clear to me. If I do drugs, or in the second spot, heroin, will my brain be cooked sunny side up? Or will my friends and family be smeared across a kitchen 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 - like matching 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, these spots do not provide a realistic threat of drug and heroin use. Further, they don't attempt to provide the viewer with efficacy - 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. Please view the following one or two of PSA's from the Meth Project (which are disturbing) as a contrast in demonstrating a threat:

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