Pharmaceutical advertising: A combination of information & emotion produces the best results

A new study, which takes a close look at the acceptance of advertising for non-prescription medications, has recently been published as a comprehensive book publication. The investigation focused on the pharmaceutical markets in the USA, in Germany, Austria and Brazil.

The market for non-prescription medication is fought over with fierce determination: For instance, today, 9 out of 10 pharmaceutical companies spend more money on advertising their products than on research & development. In doing so, they are competing for the attention and purchasing power of health-conscious consumers, whose role has changed significantly over the past few decades. While  the physician used to be  regarded as the sole expert authority, today more people than ever are taking matters relating to their own preventive health care and the treatment of minor illnesses into their own hands. This “self-empowerment” of consumers is also becoming apparent in the importance of self-medication with non-prescription medication.

For the purpose of her study, Isabell Koinig (Department of Media and Communications) surveyed 967 individuals in the USA, Germany, Austria and Brazil, asking which form of advertising receives their most positive assessment. In preparation for the survey, four versions of a pringt advertisement for a fictitious pain reliever were designed and were subsequently shown to the participants. The adverts were either (1) informative, (2) emotional, (3) a combination of informative & emotional, or (4) contained a reference to Corporate Social Responsibility. As Isabell Koinig explains, “the results reveal that the use of information & emotion, in other words, mixed forms of advertising, produce the best results in all advertising markets”. The most positive overall attitude towards all forms of advertising prevailed in Brazil, one of the fastest growing pharmaceuticals markets in the world.

Illustrating the concept of “self-empowerment” in greater detail, Koinig expands: “People have a considerable product interest with regard to these medications. This is also where the need for information stems from. Consequently, pharmaceutical advertising can also contribute to self-empowerment, as consumers learn to evaluate the products more carefully, based on information, and also take a more proactive stance towards their own health and the corresponding preventive health care. This requires critical awareness.”

Koinig, I. (2016). Pharmaceutical Advertising as a Source of Consumer Self-Empowerment. Heidelberg: Springer.