Monday, May 15 2000
Thank you Connie for accepting our rendez-vous. May I ask you to introduce yourself?
I have been on the faculty at the University of California, Irvine since 1988 (my first job!) where I teach marketing to MBA students. I also have a joint appointment at UCI's School of Social Ecology. I have a masters degree in Psychology, an MBA, and a PhD in Marketing Management, all from Vanderbilt University. I became involved in tobacco control in 1991 when I received my first grant from the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP) funded by California's Proposition 99.
I have since received three other TRDRP grants, amounting to over $400,000, and have just applied for a fourth. The money has funded a series of studies and publications on the independent and joint effects of cigarette advertising, smoking in feature films (what we in marketing call "product placements") and various antismoking ad messages on adolescents' smoking-related knowledge, beliefs, attitudes and behavioral intentions.
I began research in these areas because virtually none of my
colleagues were doing it. I admire and respect my marketing colleagues
and they have helped me tremendously through the years. However, in my
field, there is sort of a bias against research that addresses a
specific industry, such as tobacco, because it is viewed as too narrow
and relatively atheoretical. So, while there are hundreds of studies on
general, nonindustry specific issues such as humor or celebrities or
fear in advertising, we have conducted very little work on cigarette
advertising or marketing. In reading the statistics on tobacco's
devastating effects on public health, I felt that it deserved special
status. Also, marketing experts are frequently called upon as expert
witnesses in tobacco cases and I felt that they should have access to
hard data rather than relying on supposition. So I started work in the
area with my fingers crossed that my papers would be published and they
have been. Overall, I find this work very rewarding. I am particularly
excited that I have been appointed to the US Office of National Drug
Control Policy's (ONDCP) Behavioral Change Expert Panel because I am
able to help with the national anti-drug ad campaign.
Q1.You have studied the impact of showing anti-tobacco ads in movie theaters before the feature film. Is this approach frequently used within tobacco control media campaigns? In the article you published in 1999 in the Journal of Marketing (smoking scenes in movies and antismoking ads before movies: effects on youth) you estimate that such ads "could be run for 6 months on the roughly 49,000 movies screens for 40 million dollars." Is this going to happen?
It is not uncommon for campaigns to run antismoking ads in movie theaters. This has been done in Massachusetts, Arizona, and Florida for example. Not in California, but I am told the problem is lack of funding. California's media campaign has been funded at a much lower (per capita) level than the other states I mentioned. California uses the money it has to reach the general public while movie theaters reach more of a niche audience, skewed toward younger people. If you have enough money, you should run ads in traditional media and movie theaters and that's what I recommend. In fact, several California counties have supplemented the state's efforts by running ads in theaters, including Los Angeles and Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz evaluated their effort and essentially replicated my research results. They found that smoking scenes in movies promoted more positive beliefs about smoking and higher intentions to smoke, but showing an antismoking ad beforehand prevented this from happening. I cannot comment on what's happening at the national level. I am not involved in the American Legacy Foundation media campaign. Therefore, I don't know if they will be running antismoking ads in movie theaters but I think they should seriously consider it.
Q2. You also mention the possibility of placing anti-smoking ads "before movies that are broadcast on television and before movies that are copies onto tape or disk for sale or rental." Is it wishful (although exciting) thinking or could it happen?
It would probably have to be a national effort,
spearheaded and paid for by the American Legacy Foundation and I have
no idea what their interest level is. However, what I mention is very
do-able; it is not wishful thinking at all. If you have money to run
antismoking ads on network or cable TV, you simply buy time during the
presentation of movies, rather than during other programming. Of
course, you would be precluded from buying slots on premium movie
channels that do not accept ads (HBO, Showtime) and on Direct TV's pay
per view channels. Further, it should be fairly straightforward to
place ads before movies that are copied onto VHS tape or DVD. It is
commonplace to see ads before rental or for-purchase movies, so there
must be an established mechanism for doing this (e.g., middleman). Not
to sound trite but if there is a will, there is a way.
Q3. Many people say that to be effective an anti-smoking campaign must achieve a ratio of one anti-smoking ad for every four cigarette ads. What do you think the situation is now in the US?
Spending in the US is currently inadequate. Based on my
calculations, we need to spend $2 per capita on antismoking ads to
offset the approximately $8 per capita spent on ads and related
promotions by the tobacco industry. If the American Legacy Foundation
spends $300 million per year, that would amount to $1.20 per capita and
each state would need to spend $.80 per capita. If the Foundation
spends less, of course, states would need to spend more. A few states
are spending the amount necessary or more, including Massachusetts,
Arizona and Florida. California has been spending too little, or
roughly $.46 per capita. Other states are spending nothing or close to
Q4. In your 1998 report about the evaluation of ad strategies for preventing youth tobacco use, you wrote "there is considerable uncertainty over which anti-smoking ads work vs. do not work with youths and there has been very little research on this topic." Is the situation very different now? Although the type of ads used in Florida seemed to have been very effective and have influenced other media campaigns like the one started by the American Legacy Foundation, others states are not so sure about them (like Oregon). Is it possible to know what works and what does not? Is it possible that what works here does not work there and that what works at one time does not work later? How fast do ads become obsolete?
It is possible to have a very good idea about which ads are going to work and which are not, before they are aired. For over thirty years, the marketing research industry has perfected the science of advertising copytesting and there are numerous studies showing that particular techniques work. We have started to copytest the ONDCP anti-drug ads at a cost of approximately $15,000 per ad and I think the results have been invaluable, not only in telling us which ads to use but also how to create new ads. Advertising agencies often do not like copytesting because it may turn out that certain ads are ineffective and who wants to hear bad news? But clients, including public health officials, should insist that copytests be done and pay for them.
Most ads do become obsolete, though the speed at which this happens depends on various factors such as spokesperson (human vs. cartoon vs. celebrity), clothing (casual vs. business), R&D (new research and developments) and competition (in this case, cigarette ad themes that need to be countered). Also, it is generally believed that ads will work better when targeted at specific market segments based on age, ethnicity, prior product use (e.g., user vs. nonuser) and possibly gender, region of the country and/or urbanicity (urban vs. suburban vs. rural). For instance, it is rare that the same ad will work well for both youth and adults. This does not mean that antismoking campaigns must therefore choose a single target audience; instead, they should be given adequate funding to reach multiple targets and develop customized ads for each target.
I think that the jury is still out with respect to which ad themes
work best for tobacco use prevention. There are only a handful of
relevant studies and the results are not very consistent because of
across-study variation. We need dozens or even hundreds of studies to
really understand what's going on.
(As I said earlier, in academia, it is common to conduct a very large number of studies on a single topic such as humor.) As for Florida's campaign, the initial results looked less promising to me than what I was reading in the popular press. When we looked at 1999 vs. 1998, Florida was doing better than the southern region with its 8th graders but worse than the region with its 10th graders (we obtained regional data from Monitoring the Future). The more recent data from Florida look more encouraging which is great news. Notwithstanding, I don't think we really know which elements of the Florida campaign may be contributing to its success. Is it the ads and, if so, what about them? Is it the activities involving youths? I just don't know. But, based on my own work in California, attacking the tobacco industry may not be the sole or even primary element contributing to Florida's success. It may be that Florida is changing norms about smoking by showing so many young people in its ads that are vehemently antismoking.
Q5. There is now a huge focus on youth. But what about people above 18 or 21? Shouldn't the media campaigns also apply to them? As a marketing expert, what do you think of the hypothesis that if someone has not started smoking before 18 there are very little risks that he/she starts smoking? It seems to me that in other periods people started smoking later on and that the tobacco industry is already heavily working to prove this hypothesis wrong.
The statistics are quite clear. In the US, over at least the
past few decades, the vast majority of smokers started before they
turned 18. The reasons are not fully understood but seem to involve a
complex interplay of biology, societal norms, human development and
tobacco marketing practices. On the other hand, there are notable
exceptions. For instance, at the University of California, Irvine, I am
told that many female Asian students start smoking during their college
years. Presumably, they did not initiate earlier due to parental and
societal constraints. We also know that smoking rates have risen among
college students in general, though it is unclear to what extent this
represents late initiation versus cohort effects (Generation X'ers
moving on to college). Overall, in the US, we generally see age of
initiation declining or remaining stable and, while I have no reason to
expect that to change, it may not apply to all subgroups. Also, this
does not mean that we should ignore young adults in tobacco control
efforts; in fact, quite the contrary. For instance, we should target
young adult smokers with antismoking ads and programs to encourage and
facilitate quitting. Smoking prevalence in the US has been declining
steadily by approximately .7 percentage points a year since at least
the 1970s, despite the fact that daily smoking rates among high school
seniors have remained stable or even risen. What does this mean? Most
of our success has been in the area of cessation. People continue to
start smoking, but more of them quit.
Q6. Is there anything else you would like to add?
If you feel it is appropriate, here are some of my publications regarding tobacco control. Some of your readers might find some of this information to be helpful in their efforts. I would be more than happy to send anyone any of my articles. Unfortunately, I cannot offer any of my articles on-line due to copyright issues with the journal publishers.
Thank you very much for conducting a rendez-vous with me.
Thanks to you Connie for taking the time to be with us today and here is the list of the articles:
Pechmann, C. and S. Ratneshwar (1994), "The Effects of Anti-Smoking and Cigarette Advertising on Young Adolescents' Perceptions of Peers Who Smoke," Journal of Consumer Research, 21 (September), 236-251.
Pechmann, C. (1997), "Do Anti-Smoking Ads Combat Underage Smoking? A Review of Past Practices and Research," in Social Marketing: Theoretical and Practical Perspectives, M.G. Goldberg, M. Fishbein and S. Middlestadt eds., Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 189-216.
Pechmann, C., P. Dixon, and N. Layne (1998), "An Assessment of the United States and Canadian Smoking Reduction Objectives for Year 2000," American Journal of Public Health, 88 (September), 1362-1367.
Pechmann, C. and C.F. Shih (1999), "Smoking Scenes in Movies and Antismoking Advertisements Before Movies: Effects on Youth," Journal of Marketing, 63 (July), 1-13.
Pechmann, C. and E.T. Reibling (2000), "Planning an Effective Anti-Smoking Mass Media Campaign Targeting Adolescents," Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 6 (3), 80-94.
Pechmann, C. and E.T. Reibling (2000), "Anti-Smoking Advertising Campaigns Targeting Youth: Case Studies from USA and Canada," Tobacco Control Special Supplement, forthcoming.
Pechmann, C. (2000), "Changing Adolescent Smoking Prevalence: Impact of Advertising Interventions," in Changing Adolescent Smoking Prevalence: Where It Is and Why, D. Burns, ed., Silver Spring, MD: National Cancer Institute, forthcoming.