Warning--side effects may not include paying attention: visual features that influence attention to warning information in direct-to-consumer pharmeceutical advertisements
Direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertisements are required by law to include warning information about possible side effects. The text sizes and text colors for warning information often vary from the headline of the ad. The effects on recall, disposition toward the product, and aesthetic value of matching the text size and color of warning information with the ad headlines were investigated. A computer-based experiment with 192 participants was conducted. Each participant was shown a brief story and an ad, and was given a questionnaire that measured the dependent variables. The procedure was repeated three times for each participant, with the first and third exposure being the critical trials, which were presented in randomized order. No statistically significant relationships were found between altering warning information and recall, disposition toward the product, or aesthetic value. However, secondary analysis revealed a statistically significant relationship between ad order and recall. Whichever critical ad was presented second received significantly higher recall scores. Results suggest that after being questioned about the initial ad, motivation increased to attend to warning in the second ad. Duration of exposure also increased with the second ad, which positively correlated with improved recall scores. Hypotheses were retested controlling for both ad order and duration of exposure. No support was found for the hypotheses. The findings show generally poor recall for warning information in ads, even when the information is in colorful and large text. Results also indicate that motivation to read and remember warning information is a key variable in how well information is recalled.