Giving Warnings in Ads May Increase Sales

Pharmalot has an interesting story this afternoon about the
effect of including warnings in advertisements for products like drugs and
cigarettes. The study found that, shortly after the ads run, consumers who see
an ad with warnings are less likely to buy the product than consumers who see an
ad without warnings. But with the passage of time, the outcome was reversed.
The study’s authors report that “With temporal distance (product to be
delivered 3 months later, or 2 weeks after the ad was viewed), however,
participants who had seen an ad noting the benefits of the product but warning
of risky side effects bought more than those who had seen an ad noting only

Pharmalot describes some of the experiments and their findings:

For instance, 34 men with a mean age of 58 years were
divided into two groups and shown an ad for erectile dysfunction medication.
Those who were told the launch was a year away found the ad to be more
trustworthy than the men who expected imminent availability. And concern over
side effects was less among the men who did not expect the product to become
available for a year.

In another experiment, 71 people, mostly men, were shown an
for a brand of cigarettes, but one version of the ad included a warning that
smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema, while another version
did not include the warning. Those who had a chance to buy the cigarettes
shortly afterwards bought less after seeing the ad with the warning. But those
who were given an opportunity to buy the cigarettes a few days later bought
more if the ad included the warning.

The study would seem to offer important lessons for companies
and regulators.

0 thoughts on “Giving Warnings in Ads May Increase Sales

  1. Jeff Sovern says:

    My recollection of Martin Lindstrom’s book Buyology is that when scientists performed brain scans on smokers, they found that cigarette warnings activated the craving part of their brains. The implication is that the smokers associated the warnings with the product they craved and so the warnings triggered the desire to smoke.

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