NEW YORK: Over-the-counter drug advertisements tend to be intrusive – and a new study recommends the use of pretesting to prevent irritating consumers and thus encouraging them to avoid these messages.

Jisu Huh (School of Journalism and Mass Communication/University of Minnesota), Denise E. DeLorme (University of Central Florida) and Leonard N. Reid (University of Georgia) surveyed a nationally representative sample of US adults about their reactions to ads for over-the-counter (OTC) analgesic drugs.

They analysed various factors – two cognitive (perceived utility and scepticism) and two affective (irritation and attitude towards advertising) – to see how they influenced avoidance behaviours.

Their main finding: "Consumer avoidance of [OTC] drug advertising is more directly and strongly influenced by affective reactions … and attitude … than cognitive reactions."

What's more, "irritation and perceived utility are inversely linked, hence irritation could be mitigated by making advertisements more informational and useful to the target consumers."

Published in the winter 2015–2016 edition of the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR), "Do Consumers Avoid Watching Over-the-Counter Drug Advertisements? An Analysis of Cognitive and Affective Factors that Prompt Advertising Avoidance", the study points to the conclusion that, "because advertising irritation leads directly to advertising avoidance, advertisers should strive to minimise irritation with their advertisements.

"This finding is particularly true for the types of products sharing the characteristics of OTC advertising, such as rational, high-involvement and search products."

And what remedies do the authors suggest? "In the creation of advertisements for products such as OTC medicines," they propose, "the potential of advertisements to irritate should be assessed diagnostically during the production process (e.g., pretested for irritation at various stages of creation before media placement).

"Such pretesting will help advertisers avoid message and executional elements, which trigger advertising irritation and avoidance.

"Irritability pretesting may be especially important for high-income and younger consumers. As suggested by this study's results, these consumer types most likely will avoid advertisements because of advertising irritation."

Data sourced from Warc