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 benefits.”
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.