Attitudes Toward Television Advertisements For Controversial Products

Sharaf Rehman, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
John R. Brooks Jr.


Over the fast decade and a half, advertising growth rates have averaged a healthy 13% (Warner 1986). The total advertising revenues in 1986 were expected to top $110 billion, of · which television's share was expected to be $23.2 billion. A sizable percentage of this amount 'is targeted toward the youth market (i.e., college-age students). We examine a unique portion of one product category that is related directly to the youth market and, by way of the television medium, has been receiving increased attention from the ·advertising industry. According to Wood (1983), the toiletries and cosmetic products category {59% of the budget for television) and nonprescription drugs (65% of the budget for television) have facets that are not understood fully in terms of impact and preference. Our research addresses some basic questions pertaining to advertisements for nonprescription drugs, toiletry-related items, and medical products that may create viewer discomfort (i.e., feminine hygiene products, early pregnancy tests, contraceptives, digestive aids, etc.). Aaker and Bruzzone (1981) found that viewers considered feminine hygiene product commercials "offensive" and 25%-of their subjects felt strongly that such products should not be advertised on television. The intent of our study was to observe any differences in attitudes since Aaker and Bruzzone's research. and to gather basic data on 11 other controversial product categories ..

Previous research on the correlation between liking a commercial and buying a product is inconclusive. A recent study at the Ogilvy Center for Research and Development. which tested 73 prime-time commercials for products ranging from coffee to gasoline, concluded that people who enjoy a commercial are twice as likely to be convinced that the advertised brand is best (Alsop 1986). In contrast, it has also been noted that commercials (based on content or subject matter) do not have to be charming to be effective.