Impact of Publicity on Corrective Advertising Effects

Kenneth L. Bernhardt, Georgia State University
Thomas C. Kinnear, University of Michigan
Michael B. Mazis, American University
Bonnie B. Reece, University of Michigan
ABSTRACT - Previous research on corrective advertising has generally involved a forced exposure in a laboratory setting using student subjects. Treatment and criterion variables have also usually been developed by the researcher independent of the real interests of regulators. This paper presents an overview of a national field study of the STP corrective advertising campaign, as it was actually undertaken by the Federal Trade Commission. The details of this study are currently under review for publication elsewhere.
[ to cite ]:
Kenneth L. Bernhardt, Thomas C. Kinnear, Michael B. Mazis, and Bonnie B. Reece (1981) ,"Impact of Publicity on Corrective Advertising Effects", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 08, eds. Kent B. Monroe, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 414-415.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 8, 1981      Pages 414-415

IMPACT OF PUBLICITY ON CORRECTIVE ADVERTISING EFFECTS

Kenneth L. Bernhardt, Georgia State University

Thomas C. Kinnear, University of Michigan

Michael B. Mazis, American University

Bonnie B. Reece, University of Michigan

ABSTRACT -

Previous research on corrective advertising has generally involved a forced exposure in a laboratory setting using student subjects. Treatment and criterion variables have also usually been developed by the researcher independent of the real interests of regulators. This paper presents an overview of a national field study of the STP corrective advertising campaign, as it was actually undertaken by the Federal Trade Commission. The details of this study are currently under review for publication elsewhere.

BACKGROUND

There have been several important corrective advertising studies conducted in a laboratory setting, but frequently subjects have viewed ads under conditions of forced exposure thereby limiting generalizability (Armstrong, Gurol and Russ 1979, Dyer and Kuehl 1974, 1976a, 1976b, 1978, Gurol 1977, Hunt 1972, 1973, Kassarjian et. al. 1975). In addition, while most of the corrective campaigns have appeared in the print medium, many of the studies have concerned broadcast advertising for Listerine (Armstrong et. al. 1979, Dyer and Kuehl 1978, Gurol 1977, Mazis and Adkinson 1978, Mizerski et. al. 1979, Sawyer and Seminick 1978). Further almost all reported studies have used students as subjects. The impact on actual consumers in the marketplace is essentially unresearched.

The current research is the first to examine corrective advertising as it was actually undertaken by the Federal Trade Commission in the field. It is designed to measure, though a "before and after" design (Campbell and Stanley 1963), the effectiveness of the 1978 STP corrective advertising campaign which appeared in a number of periodicals and received substantial publicity in the news media.

In February 1978, the STP Corporation signed a consent decree under which it agreed to discontinue certain advertising claims about its motor oil additive and to make a $700,000 settlement, including $200,000 to place a "public notice" advertisement in 14 periodicals.

During February 5-9, 1978, several days before initiation of the "public notice" campaign, 823 persons who were at least 18 years of age, who were regular readers (read three of every four issues) of one of the target periodicals were interviewed on the telephone. While a stratified random sampling procedure was used to contact potential interviewees (as described below), a quota procedure was used to obtain a 60:40 ratio between "general public" respondents and respondents with "business related occupations."

Subsequent to these interviews, the "public notice" advertisement was placed as follows:

February 10 - Wall Street Journal

February 10 - New York Times (Financial Section)

February 13 - Washington Post

February 13 - Barron's

February 20 - Newsweek

February 20 - U.S. News & World Report

February 20 - People

February 20 - Business Week

The advertisement also appeared in the Time Business during February. However, since it was impossible to determine which Time readers received the business edition, Time was excluded from the list of relevant publications. Additionally, during March and April the advertisement appeared in Esquire, Forbes, Guns and Ammo, Harvard Business Review, and National Geographic. Since these placements appeared after Wave II was completed, readership of these periodicals was not relevant for inclusion in the samples. A second wave of 845 interviews with a separate group of respondents was conducted from February 27 through March 2 using the identical procedure followed for the first wave. Respondents were contacted shortly after initiation of the campaign in order to reduce the impact of "history effects" as a source of invalidity and to more accurately measure consumer perceptions of the advertisement. As such, the study focuses solely on short-tern effects generated by the campaign and publicity. Additionally, a special sample of 197 advertising industry managers, selected from a proprietary list, was interviewed during Wave II only.

The sample, based on the Louis Harris national sample selection procedure, was selected based upon the national population of the United States, excluding Alaska and Hawaii, and those in prisons, hospitals or religious and educational institutions. Figures are updated annually by intercensul estimates provided by the Bureau of Census, with sample locations selected biannually to reflect demographic changes.

RESULTS

The results of the campaign were measured on a number of variables: knowledge of problems about STP advertising, intention to purchase STP, attitudes toward the STP Corporation, and credibility of oil additive claims in general. Additional recall measures about the campaign were taken on Wave II participants.

The campaign and the attendant publicity had a marked effect on awareness of a problem with STP advertising, and resulted in a decrease level of intention to purchase STP. The effects of the campaign did not spill over into oil additive claims in general, nor did it negatively impact attitudes held about the STP Corporation. The effects appear to he very specific to STP.

Examination of recall results raises questions as to how these effects occurred. Both unaided and aided recall levels were extremely low. How then could the observed effects have occurred? It is our speculation that the substantial attendant publicity for the campaign (features on network television news for example) must be a significant contributor to the observed results. Unfortunately, no evidence is available to support or refute this conclusion.

REFERENCES

Armstrong, Gary M., Gurol, Metin N. and Russ, Frederick A. (1979), "Detecting and Correcting Deceptive Advertising," Journal of Consumer Research, 6 (December), 237-246.

Campbell, Donald T. and Stanley, Julian C.(1963), "Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for Research on Teaching," in Handbook of Research on Teaching, N. L. Gauss, ed., Washington: American Educational Research Association, 171-246.

Chadduck, H. W. (1972), "In Brief Summary: Prescription Drug Advertising, 1962-71," FDA Papers (February).

Dyer, Robert F. and Kuehl, Philip G. (1974), 'The Corrective Advertising Remedy of the FTC: An Experimental Approach," Journal of Marketing, 33 (January), 40-44.

Dyer, Robert F. (1976a), "Applications of the 'Normative Belief' Technique for Measuring the Effectiveness of Deceptive and Corrective Advertisements," in Advances in Consumer Research, Volume IV, W. D. Perreault, ed., Atlanta: Association for Consumer Research, 204-209.

Dyer, Robert F. (1976b), "Brand Belief Measures in Deceptive-Corrective Advertising: An Experimental Assessment," in Marketing: 1776-1976 and Beyond, K. L. Bernhardt, ed., Chicago: American Marketing Association, 373-379.

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Kassarjian, Harold H., Carlson, Cyntha J. and Rusin, Paula E. (1975), "A Corrective Advertising Study," in Advances in Consumer Research, Volume II, Ann Arbor, MI: Association for Consumer Research, 631-642.

Landon, E. Laird and Banks, Sharon K. (1977), "Relative Efficiency and Bias of Plus-one Telephone Sampling," Journal of Marketing Research, 14 (August), 294-299.

Mazis, Michael B. and Adkinson, Janice E.(1976), "An Experimental Evaluation of a Proposed Corrective Advertising Remedy," Journal of Marketing Research, 13 (May), 178-183.

Mizerski, Richard w., Allison, Neil X. and Calvert, Stephen (1979), "A Controlled Field Study of Corrective Advertising Using Radio," unpublished working paper, University of Cincinnati, Department of Marketing.

Sawyer, Alan G. and Semenik, Richard J.(1978), "Carryover Effects of Corrective Advertising," in Advances in Consumer Research, Volume V., H. Keith Hunt, ed., Ann Arbor, MI: Association for Consumer Research, 343-351.

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