So-called responsible drinking ads that primarily target young adults could have the opposite effect on behavior, a new academic study claims. According to the study’s co-author, Indiana University Marketing Professor Adam Duhachek, these public service announcements consisting of “negative emotional appeals” could backfire and cause more binge drinking especially among young people. Business Week reports that Duhachek and his colleagues interviewed more than 1,200 undergraduate students after they were shown ads that used guilt or shame (including causing injuries to others in drunk driving accidents) to warn against alcohol abuse.
“The public health and marketing communities expend considerable effort and capital on campaigns but have long suspected they were less effective than hoped,” Duhachek noted. “But the situation is worse than wasted money or effort. These ads ultimately may do more harm than good because they have the potential to spur more of the behavior they’re trying to prevent.”
The study findings, which appear in the April issue of the Journal of Marketing, suggest that the guilt- and shame-based commercials create an “instinctive coping mechanism” that enables viewers to distance themselves from the serious consequences of binge drinking–that it only happens to other people–and they might wind up drinking even more.
The professor says that these commercials should instead contain empowering messages, such as strategies for individuals to control their drinking. “If you’re going to communicate a frightening scenario, temper it with the idea that it’s avoidable. It’s best to use the carrot along with the stick,” he said.
If it proves valid, this study may lead to important improvements in the way media messages about risky behaviors are crafted. Alcohol abuse cuts across all age groups, but it’s a particularly difficult issue among teenage and young adult motorists in Virginia and throughout the country in connection with car accidents, sometimes with fatal consequences. If you–or a loved one–-have been injured in a Virginia automobile accident brought about by an impaired driver, regardless of that driver’s age, you need to know your legal rights. Contact the Law Offices of Richard J. Serpe, P.C., Toll Free 877-544-5323, for a no-obligation consultation.