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Fear appeals in social marketing advertising

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Title: Fear appeals in social marketing advertising
Author: Lavack, Anne Marie
Degree Doctor of Philosophy - PhD
Program Business Administration
Copyright Date: 1997
Subject Keywords Advertising and consumer psychology; Fear
Abstract: This thesis includes several studies on the use of fear appeals in social marketing advertising. The first study uses a content analysis to examine the use of fear appeals in a sample of 589 social marketing television ads. The social marketing ads represented five health-related behaviors (smoking, drinking, driving while impaired, drug abuse, unsafe sex) in five countries (Canada, United States, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand), covering the period from 1980 through to 1994. The sample was content analyzed to examine the incidence of fear appeals, the adherence to the prescriptions of the Ordered Protection Motivation (OPM) model (Tanner, Hunt, and Eppright 1991), and whether fear appeals vary by country-of-origin, the types of behavior being targeted by social marketing advertising (smoking, drinking, driving while impaired, drug abuse, unsafe sex), and the choice of an intended target group (by age and/or sex). Findings suggest that ads generally adhere to the major tenets of the OPM model. In terms of incidence, the use of fear appeals is less common when the sponsor is a for-profit corporation, when the ads are targeted at a youthful target group, and when the behaviors being targeted are perceived to be less serious. Fear appeals appear to be more common in ads from Australia, as compared to the United States or Canada. To examine the idea that different target groups may respond differently to fear appeal ads, two experiments and a focus group were conducted. First, an exploratory experiment used drinking and driving (DUI) ads as a stimulus to examine the differential effectiveness of two different types of ads against different behavioral risk groups. This study compared an "OPM" social marketing print ad (i.e., one using fear appeals of the format prescribed by the OPM model), to a "MALADAPT" social marketing print ad (i.e., one which simply presents counter-arguments against maladaptive responses, beliefs, and behaviors). Individuals who differed in the extent to which they engaged in the targeted risky behavior (i.e., those who do engage in DUI versus those who do not engage in DUI) were exposed to either the "OPM" or "MALADAPT" social marketing ads, or to a control condition. It was expected that the non-DUI group would experience the greatest change in attitudes and behavioral intentions when exposed to the traditional "OPM" social marketing ad, while the DUI group would experience the greatest attitudinal/behavioral change when exposed to the "MALADAPT" social marketing ad. However, the results of the initial exploratory experiment were inconclusive, and further study of the DUI target group was warranted. Therefore, a focus group was conducted which examined the attitudes and beliefs of the DUI group. A key finding from this qualitative research was that DUI individuals are unconcerned about getting into an accident, but are instead primarily concerned with getting caught by the police. This suggests that some of the traditional high-fear appeals which feature bloody accidents may not be effective with this high-risk target group, and reinforces the idea that the MALADAPT ad which tries to attack maladaptive beliefs may be the most effective means of influencing this DUI target group. Insights from the focus group provided the means for improving the ad stimuli and questionnaire for a replication of the experiment. Pretests for the ad stimuli helped in developing ads which were compelling and interesting for all experimental conditions. Based on these inputs, the experiment was refined and replicated. Findings indicated that the "MALADAPT" ad (which attacked maladaptive coping responses) was actually more effective with the high risk DUI group than the traditional OPM fear-appeal type of ad.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/6653
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]

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