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Anti-smoking ads with strong arguments, not flashy editing, trigger part of brain involving behavior change
Date:4/23/2013

ontent and format, which are both important here," said Dr. Langleben, who is also an associate professor in the department of Psychiatry. "If you give someone an unconvincing ad, it doesn't matter what format you do on top of that. You can make it sensational. But in terms of effectiveness, content is more important. You're better off adding in more sophisticated editing and other special effects only if it is persuasive."

The paper may enable improved methods of design and evaluation of public health advertising, according to the authors, including first author An-Li Wang, PhD, of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. And it could ultimately influence how producers shape the way ads are constructed, and how ad production budgets are allocated, considering special effects are expensive endeavors versus hiring screenwriters.

A 2009 study by Dr. Langleben and colleagues that looked solely at format found people were more likely to remember low-key, anti-smoking messages versus attention-grabbing messages. This was the first research to show that low-key versus attention-grabbing ads stimulated different patterns of activity, particularly in the frontal cortex and temporal cortex. But it did not address content strength or behavioral changes.

This new study is the first longitudinal investigation of the cognitive, behavioral, and neurophysical response to the content and format of televised anti-smoking ads, according to the authors.

"This sets the stage for science-based evaluation and design of persuasive public health advertising," said Dr. Langleben. "An ad is only as strong as its central argument, which matters more than its audiovisual presentation. Future work should consider supplementing focus groups with more technology-heavy assessments, such as brain responses to these ads, in advance of even putting the ad together in its entirety."


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Contact: Steve Graff
stephen.graff@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5653
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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