Purpose – Advertisements are the first point of contact a marketer has with a prospective consumer. It is at this stage that a marketer gets an opportunity to leave an impression in the minds of a reader and to differentiate a reader from a prospective customer. Marketers achieve this objective with the help of two tools of advertising i.e. attractiveness cues and information cues. Given the limitation of time, space and financial resources marketers have been forced into a tradeoff between information cues and attractiveness cues. This tradeoff has given rise to skepticism in the minds of customers and policy makers concerning the balance between the two cues and resulting ethical issues. This paper aims to carry out a content analysis of advertisements in magazines in order to study this tradeoff between information and attractiveness cues in advertisements. Design/methodology/approach – To pursue the research objective, it was decided to collect data through content analysis of advertisements. To judge the level of informative and attractiveness cues in advertisements, classification by Resnik and Stern and Pollay along with imagery questions were used. The classification determines the level of advertising information based on 14 criteria or cues. The classification is an established baseline and has also been tested for reliability in other cultures. To collect data it was decided to use magazine advertisements as these are a preferred means for advertising OTC drugs. In order to select the sample various Indian and US magazines were reviewed. Indian magazines focusing entirely on health and women could not be found; therefore two popular women's magazines were chosen which discussed health topics. For interpreting the content of the advertisements two coders, who were trained in marketing research, were chosen. Data collection resulted in 170 unique advertisements across India and USA. Findings – The results of the study highlighted that, although both US and Indian OTC advertisements were trading off in favor of attractiveness cues, Indian advertisements were more imbalanced. Indian advertisements on an average have 4.83 attractiveness cues out of 6.60 cues per advertisements while US advertisements have 4.55 attractiveness cues out of 7.54 cues per advertisement. Indian advertisements not only have on an average fewer information cues, but also fared badly in terms of the type of cues. The US marketers were found to be more socially responsible in terms of advertisements ethics as compared to Indian marketers in the context of the OTC drugs industry. Research limitations/implications – The study was limited to OTC drugs; a more detailed study should be carried out to compare advertising content by specific product categories. Difference in scope of magazines used in this study may have influenced the adequacy of sample, as profile of target customers in the two magazines was a little different. Practical implications – The results indicated that the Indian OTC advertisers needed to re‐evaluate the industry standards and become more ethical and socially responsible to give the industry a global outlook and acceptance. Social implications – The paper highlights the need for companies to adopt a proactive and socially responsible attitude and improve information content of Indian OTC advertisements as per international industry standards. Originality/value – The paper will be of value to corporate and social policy makers and also to marketers.
Journal of Asia Business Studies – Emerald Publishing
Published: Apr 26, 2013
Keywords: Communication; Corporate social responsibility; Strategy; Management; Content analysis; Social responsibility; Advertisements; Print media; Advertising effectiveness; Pharmaceutical products