Ads seeking to discourage driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol may benefit from placing greater emphasis on the positive implications that can result from avoiding this activity, a study in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR) has argued.

Lefa Teng, Yuanyuan Wu, Hongyu Fu and Jiajing Wang (all from Jiangnan University) and Guanzhi Zhao (Loyola University, Maryland) conducted two online surveys among consumers to assess this subject.

“One can frame anti-drunk driving messages positively by presenting the desirable consequences of not driving while intoxicated, versus negatively by presenting the undesirable consequences of drunk driving,” they asserted.

And their paper – entitled, Positive versus negative messaging in discouraging drunken driving: Matching behavior consequences with target group – looked at how ads might best communicate some of these consequences.

More specifically, they created four “anti-drunk driving advertisements”, with each picture showing a policeman holding a tool to test alcohol levels in the blood, for their first of two surveys.

A different message was communicated in a “callout cloud” in each ad in order to show the “drivers’ inner thoughts at that moment” as they were being tested by the policeman.

One ad stressed the positive, financial benefits from not drinking and driving, as these individuals will avoid fines. A “negative and financial” alternative highlighted the financial penalties that can result from driving while intoxicated.

A third ad flagged up the “positive and non-financial” benefits of not drinking and driving, as it means families will remain happy. A “negative and non-financial” fourth ad showed that a drunk driver could end up in jail, thus harming their family.

Each participant from a sample of 123 respondents viewed one of these ads for 60 seconds, and then answered questions about these ads and their likelihood to get behind the wheel after drinking.

A second study built on these findings by taking a similar approach with 96 online survey participants, this time looking at the positive and negative health and social impacts of driving under the influence of alcohol.

The results of the two studies, according to the authors, showed that “a positive message frame was more persuasive than a negative one when financial consequences of DUI were highlighted, whereas a negative message frame was more persuasive than a positive one when non-financial consequences of DUI were highlighted.”

One recommendation from their work is thus “to promote the negative social consequences of DUI rather than customarily featuring the negative physical consequences.

“The current research also shows that positive anti-drunk driving messages can be a useful alternative to the common practice of framing the message negatively.”

Sourced from WARC