Project Abstract (2017)

Pharmaceutical companies spend more money on Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) advertising than on research and development of drugs, indicating that their priorities are more geared toward profit than producing optimal treatment options. The practice of DTC advertising is problematic, as consumers could heed the advice of advertisements over that of a physician. Given the conflict of interest between pharmaceutical companies’ agendas and the potential of advertisements to inform patient choice, patients are at risk for consuming drugs that are not medically advantageous. The birth control industry is especially interesting to analyze, as it is classified as a lifestyle, or nonessential, medication, but DTC advertisements portray it as medically necessary. Furthermore, birth control has adverse side effects, which are often deemphasized in DTC advertisements, possibly misinforming the consumer. To understand how DTC advertisements affect consumer perceptions of birth control, this research will use a two pronged approach: a content analysis and a survey. The content analysis will analyze the features of the advertisements to isolate the prominent techniques employed. Through a time-based analysis, specific advertisements that devote the largest percentage of time to each feature will be selected to show participants. To quantify the effect of advertisements on the consumer, a Likert-scale survey will be administered to a group of participants. The results will then be compared to those of a control group, who will take the same survey without watching advertisements. Thus, the comparison will provide insight into the correlation between exposure to advertisements and consumer understanding of products.

Controller the Consumer: An Analysis of Persuasive Birth Control Advertisements on Consumer Choice