Argumentation in Direct-To-Consumer Advertising of Pharmaceuticals: Logical Problems and Policy Issues

Sara Rubinelli, Universita della Svizzera Italiana, Switzerland
Kent Nakamoto, Virginia Tech
Peter Schulz, Universita della Svizzera Italiana, Switzerland
Anjala Krishen, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
There is an ongoing global debate over the potential benefits and risks of allowing direct- to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines (DTCA). The core of this debate concerns the identification of DTCA either as a beneficial procedure to be promoted or as a damaging procedure to be abolished. Economic data on DTCA suggest that this form of advertising has an impact. Based on this premise, we explore the use of argumentation theory as an analytical tool to enquire into the reasons for this success. In particular, by joining together perspectives from classical rhetoric and argumentation theory, we test the hypothesis of whether DTCA presents information framed in potentially misleading, but persuasive, argumentative structures. In the paper, we highlight and discuss the results of a set of studies designed to assess whether readers perceive DTCA as argumentative and, if so, which explicit and implicit elements provide groundings for the inference actually drawn by the target from the ads. The analysis highlights the presence in DTCA of dubious arguments (fallacies and distracting claims) that go unnoticed, as well as the nature of readers’ wrong assumptions that arise independently from the contents of the ads. These factors seem to influence the level of the self-perceived persuasiveness of DTCA.
[ to cite ]:
Sara Rubinelli, Kent Nakamoto, Peter Schulz, and Anjala Krishen (2008) ,"Argumentation in Direct-To-Consumer Advertising of Pharmaceuticals: Logical Problems and Policy Issues", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 35, eds. Angela Y. Lee and Dilip Soman, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 106-108.