FDA cigarette labels test public’s fears

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is using a classic example of  “fear appeal” to change the behavior of smokers.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration photo

Fear appeals use threats of highlight the negative consequences of not heeding the warning to change attitude and/or behavior. Remember the “Brain on Drugs” campaign back in the ’90s, where a fried egg represented the damaging effects of drugs on teenagers’ brains?

Or maybe you remember this “Don’t Drink and Drive” fear appeal:

Now the government is rolling out new and more graphic warning labels on cigarette packs that aim to show the dangers of smoking through images such as a diseased lung, a smoker wearing an oxygen mask and an emaciated cancer patient. You can view them on the FDA site.

According to USA Today, the new labels represent the most sweeping anti-tobacco effort since the surgeon general’s warning became mandatory on cigarette packaging in 1965. In addition to the grisly images, cigarette marketers also will be required to place 1-800-QUIT-NOW numbers on new packaging, the newspaper said.

“The goal: Slash consumption among the nation’s 43 million smokers and prevent millions more, especially teens, from ever starting.”

But will this particular fear appeal work?

Fear appeals are advertising messages that attempt to create anxiety in the targeted audiences to adopt a recommended response to the threat. Such fear-based advertisements are widely used in health-related communication situations such as health promotional campaigns and social marketing advertising.  The American Cancer Society’s “My Sister Accidentally Killed Herself” ad is one example.

While ads using fear appeal can be effective, as previous campaigns have shown, inappropriate use could also cause consumers to refuse to give their attention to and turn away from such advertisements when they feel intimidated, or even irritated.

Not surprisingly, tobacco companies oppose the new labels. It’s interesting that opposition also is coming from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the American Advertising Federation (AAF) who are concerned it could “set a very dangerous precedent for all other marketers – that the government can tell companies what they must say and portray in their advertising,” according to the ANA.

What do you think – will these labels influence your decision to smoke? Do the advertising groups have a good point, or do you think their opposition stems from something else?


Celebrity endorsers aren’t going away despite the Sheen-like risks

Actor Charlie Sheen public escapades makes this a good time to talk about the use of celebrities in advertising. Sheen was featured in Hanes commercials, which were dropped when negativity about him intensified. He follows a list of celebrity endorsers – Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, Kate Moss, Michael Phelps, Chris Brown, Brett Favre – who ended up being brand liabilities instead of champions. Don’t expect this to deter advertisers from using celebrities, though. Why? Because they draw attention to and help shape perceptions of the brand.

One local example is Reliant Energy’s use of NFL Hall of Famer Troy Aikman in TV spots. Aikman’s agent tries to rope him into endorsing a dental gun, while Aikman practically begs for a shot at representing Reliant Energy. See for yourself:

For the Reliant Energy brand to be tied to an athlete like Aikman, whose performance as quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys was nothing short of electric at times, is an excellent fit. Consumers likely will infer that Reliant, like Aikman, is competitive, reliable, credible…and delivers even under pressure.

Linking a celebrity endorser to a brand is not without risk, however. Besides undesirable behavior and/or sudden loss of popularity that can diminish the celebrity’s marketing value to the brand, there are any number of potential problems:

  • Celebrity endorsers can be overused by pitching so many products that there ends up being no specific product meaning, or consumers believe that celebrities only do it for the money and don’t believe in or even use the product.
  • The celebrity’s star power can overshadow the brand to the point where consumers can’t recall the advertised brand.
  • A mismatch of celebrity and brand is unbelievable or illogical to consumers.
  • Some consumers can feel that celebrities’ salaries to appear in advertisements add a significant and unnecessary cost to the brand.

What this all means is care must be taken by brands so that celebrity endorsers are evaluated, selected and used strategically, as well as closely monitored.

A recent survey by Starch Advertising Research indicates we can expect to continue to see celebrities featured in print ads because doing so produces a 9.4 percent lift in readership than ads without a celebrity endorser.

Do you think celebrity endorsements are worth the risk?


Is a Super Bowl or American Idol commercial worth the cost?

Photo by graur razvan ionut

You’d really have to be living under a rock to not be aware of the recent launch of the new American Idol season and the upcoming Super Bowl XLV– two of the most expensive advertising vehicles for marketers.

Whether or not advertising during the Super Bowl and American Idol is worth the high dollars that are being spent depends on the company, the product, its integration with other marketing communications and its memorability.

Both the Super Bowl and American Idol draw huge audiences and practically every demographic and psychographic group. They also have some differences, though. With American Idol, advertisers can repeat their pitches multiple times, since the show runs 2-3 times weekly. While this is not true with the Super Bowl, what the Super Bowl offers advertisers is scarcity (a one-time finale) that produces a huge amount of anticipation both for the game and the ads. People who aren’t even sports fans will watch so that they can be a part of the post-game/ads talk.

And yet, advertising during either of these shows does not guarantee success. Just ask any of the dot.com companies, like Pets.com, that went bust after their Super Bowl advertisements aired.

Studies show that the Super Bowl is a great launching pad for a new product or to create brand awareness. Examples cited include Apple’s introduction of the Mac in 1984, and more recent product launches by Chrysler, Gillette and Victoria’s Secret. And when a Super Bowl ad is combined with other marketing communication mediums, such as an online promotion, direct mail, social media and print ad campaign, it can extend its effectiveness for weeks, providing the advertiser is careful not to over-saturate the market to the point of irritating consumers and turning them off.

In my opinion, staying top-of-mind among consumers beyond the Super Bowl or an American Idol episode is the true test of whether the ad was worth the money it took to develop it and the associated media spend costs. This is supported by Lisa Haverty and Stephen Blessing who developed a metric, CogScore, that examines six cognitive principles in an attempt to predict the memorability of the brand from any given ad. CogScore is based on the belief that awareness, persuasion and likeability of an ad will have no effect if the brand being advertised is not remembered as belonging to that ad. In their study, they examined ad recall of Super Bowl ads a year after the game aired. Not only were many of the brands and products not remembered, several were wrongly matched with a competitor’s brand. These are companies that did not get their money’s worth out of their ads.

Business Insider offers a preview of this year’s commercials if you haven’t already seen them and can’t wait until Sunday.

Which commercials do you think will score high in memorability?