The style and size of text that is superimposed on direct-to-consumer TV ads for pharma products has a meaningful impact on viewer responses, according to a study published in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).

In analysing the use of superimposed text - also known as “supers” - to convey information about products in TV ads for direct-to-consumer prescription drugs, the study considered various factors.

Study participants watched these ads on television sets or tablets, and their responses indicated that awareness of the supers was greater on TV, but attitudes about the spot were more favourable among tablet viewers.

“In particular, text size affected recall of risks: Those who viewed the smallest supers recalled fewer risks than those who saw the larger versions,” the study said.

People who were exposed to the small version of the supers also had “more positive perceptions” about drug effectiveness and were more likely to believe that the drug’s benefits out-weighed the risks.

“Additionally, participants exposed to small supers had more favorable attitudes toward the drug,” the study, which was entitled “Superimposed text size and contrast effects in DTC TV advertising: Bigger is better, high contrast not so much”, said.

The final analytic sample in the research featured 1,210 participants, who were assigned to 12 different study groups, and watched ads either on a TV screen or a tablet.

More specifically, the study deployed six versions of a 60-second ad for a fictitious prescription-drug product that was said to treat asthma.

“Each version of the advertisement included identical audio, visuals, and risk and benefit information; they varied only in the size of the supers appearing at the bottom of the video frame and the contrast of this text relative to the background,” the study said.

Among the measures used by the study were “low-level cognitive processing” that tracked awareness and mental encoding of the supers.

Secondly, it tracked participants’ memory and interpretation of the risk and benefit information in each ad. The degree to which respondents perceived the ad and product as favourable were also assessed.

Where the size of superimposed text was smaller, the study found, participants “did not recall risk information as effectively as those in the large condition”.

As small text in supers also “enhances perceived drug benefit and overall favorability,” the study suggested further research was needed to ascertain the various impacts of supers in pharma advertising.

The authors of the paper were Ryan S. Paquin (RTI International), Amie C. O’Donoghue (U.S. Food and Drug Administration), Bridget J. Kelly (RTI International), Kevin R. Betts (U.S. Food and Drug Administration), Mihaela Johnson (RTI International), Christine N. Davis (RTI International), Alyssa Jordan (RTI International) and Peyton Williams (RTI International).

Sourced from WARC