Many of us remember the old Pepsi challenge commercials, where blind taste tests vs. Coke showed people preferring Pepsi. One of the interesting results of these commercials was that Pepsi gained market share, but Coke did not lose it -- much of the Pepsi market share gain came from other brands. In essence, the commercials established in consumer's minds that the cola choice was Coke or Pepsi, and so it did as much for Coke as it did Pepsi.
So now take this experience to anti-smoking commercials. It turns out that they may backfire:
The more anti-smoking ads middle schoolers see, the more likely they are to smoke, according to a study in the August issue of Communication Research.
Hye-Jin Paek, an assistant professor at the University of Georgia's
College of Journalism and Mass Communication, and Albert Gunther, a
professor of life sciences communication at the University of
Wisconsin at Madison, analyzed data from surveys that asked middle
school students about their exposure to anti-smoking messages and their
intention to smoke:
They found that, overall, the
more the students were exposed to anti-smoking messages, the more
inclined they were to smoke. The exception"”where exposure to
anti-smoking ads correlated with a reduced intention to smoke"”occurred
among students who said their friends were influenced by anti-smoking
In the context of other advertising research, such as the old Coke/Pepsi campaign, this is not surprising. It is even less surprising for this type of ad, where a certain amount of anti-authoritarian response can be expected. In fact, I have seen a number of ads that use this anti-authoritarian streak and distrust of the government as a feature. Ads that say "The government doesn't want you to know about X" or "What the oil companies don't want you to know."
I wonder when the first member of the plaintiff's bar will initiate a lawsuit against the tobacco companies for promoting teenage smoking by running... anti-smoking ads.