Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

The Evidence for Vivid Communication

Following up on what NICE said in their response to the Forum’s submission on preventing young people from taking up smoking I thought I should look at what evidence they’ve found for “vivid communication”.

I’m not quite sure what the NICE team mean by vivid, but let’s hope it’s not the same as fear based as as that doesn’t seem to be as effective as other forms of advertising.

The paper they’ve put together has this to say:

In a review (+) examining the effects of anti-smoking advertising on teenagers, Wakefield and colleagues suggest that although there is some research to suggest that graphic health effects ads, social normative ads, and tobacco industry manipulation ads can positively influence teenagers (increased knowledge about the harms of smoking, lower intentions to smoke and lower perceived prevalence of smoking), the findings are far from consistent (Wakefield et al. 2003). Their review suggests that shock/ fear messaging as well as normative messaging is associated with an increased intention not to smoke, while tobacco industry manipulation ads require a sophisticated target audience in order to be effective.

Another international review found that:

ads that portray health effects can be effective, but they must engage viewers emotionally. Ads that include social disapproval, or refusal skills can also be effective with youth, but have mostly been studied in controlled community settings. The results of one social approval/refusal skills ad campaign included in the review was found to be ineffective when implemented on a large scale, but effective when tested in community trials.

They point to a UK based piece of research which found:

In terms of fear appeals ads, interviewees did not see themselves as targets of these messages and, as a consequence, did not feel it necessary to respond to these threats. In terms of social norms ads, many interviewees said that the advertisements spoke to them at their level and were realistic in terms of social pressure without preaching or telling them what to do. Actors that were slightly older than the target audience also were more effective. In terms of industry manipulation ads, many respondents found them attractive, slick, and sophisticated; however many rejected the idea that the industry might be manipulating their own behaviour by encouraging them to smoke or to smoke certain brands. Using a qualitative research design, the authors concluded that no single anti-smoking message appeal is likely to have universal appeal and that young people’s responses to message appeals are mediated by the values they attach to smoking.


Filed under: advertising, NICE, tobacco,

3 Responses

  1. […] they might not have done is look at the evidence for “vivid communications” which isn’t perhaps as strong as the makers, teachers (or children) suspect it will […]

  2. […] A Critical Review of the Montana Meth Project, Drugs, Money Readers may remember that we’ve touched on whether trying to elicit a “fear” response when designing drug campaigns is likely to […]

  3. […] looked at this issue they decided that “vivid” communications which elicit fear was evidenced enough for them to be able recommend […]

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