ENGL 147N Week 7 Assignment: Pro-Con Position Paper

ENGL 147N Week 7 Assignment: Pro-Con Position Paper

ENGL 147N Week 7 Assignment: Pro-Con Position Paper

Fear-Based Advertising Could Lead Public to Choose Better Health Decision

It is common knowledge than an advertisement presents more than just pictures, information and tag lines. It serves as the media to convey a message, especially in the case of health campaign advertising. Each element of health advertising; the model, the message and the setting should be designed carefully, as it is expected to lead the public to change their lifestyle. The trick used to build and aim for highest effectiveness of the advertisement content is called message framing. Generally, there are two ways of message framing; loss-framing and gain-framing (Wansink & Pope, 2014). The first framing technique focuses on the loss that the person will get if they keep doing the action. On the other hand, gain-framing emphasize the positive result for the person if the person does the action. Both framing mechanisms could provide negative and positive impact depending on how the message is delivered. This essay addresses the impact advertisement has on the public by providing a thorough analysis of the fear-based techniques carried on by specialists in order to raise awareness among members of society.

For health purpose advertisement, the most commonly used technique is gain-framing. It could be seen in anti-smoking or weight loss advertisement which encourages people to change their lifestyle for better physical condition. Be that as it may, specialists highlight that loss-framing techniques achieve greater results among society for there are three essential factors that play a role, and these are attention, memory, and behavior (Dahl, Frankenberger and Manchanda, 2003, 278), which implies that the more shocking an advertisement is, the highest level of impact it will have on people. After all, there is no much point in putting forward the benefits without mentioning the drawbacks of tendencies and behaviours everyone is fully aware that has negative or detrimental consequences for health, such as smoking or overeating. Besides, experts, doctors as well as advertisement designers, should focus on raising awareness, rather than on encouraging behaviours that put people’s lives at risk.

This is the reason why, lately, the combination of loss-framing and fear arousal is also used to lead public to change their behaviour. Loss-framing and fear arousal are claimed to have a better effect and show significant difference while compared to the regular advertisement (Simpson, 2017), which is related to the purpose of using shocking content and material, that is generally associated with the need to startle and offend the audience (Dahl, Frankenberger & Manchanda, 2003, 268). Therefore, images such as foetuses with malformations and abnormalities or deteriorated lungs are shown in the packets of cigarettes, not only to prevent members of society of the dangers they are exposed to by smoking but also to shock them and make them grow aware of the consequences many choose to ignore. These types of campaign have been so effective that, while the opposition to fear-based advertisements presents many validate points, overall, the best stance is using it to lead the public to choose better health decision.

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On the other hand, some people disagree to the idea of using shocking content on advertising because when people see an advertisement, they should be attracted to the content before they stop and digest the information. Zhang, a student of the School of Management in Jinan University reports the importance of emotional bonding in advertisement by using real life condition as the reference for the model and the message. As relevant points, Zhang mentions the level of emotion, which is possible to influence consumers’ advertising attitude. First of all, it is necessary to ensure enough emotional strength so that the advertisement has the opportunity to attract consumers’ attention and emotional resonance (Zhang, 2020, p.14). The first sign of good health campaign is attracting the target audience. Before people decide to follow the suggestion, they need to relate to the message being conveyed by the advertisement. If the advertisement portrays a condition which the people cannot imagine or have never seen before, the chance of behaviour change is low. The message should touch deep into a certain emotional level and be delivered to the public without adhering from its original content.

The opponent of fear-based advertisement argues that the negative emotion implied from loss-gain framing does not lead people to change their behaviour. Aysen Akyuz, the Association Professor of Department of Public Relations and Advertising in Istanbul Medipol University, Turkey, conducted a survey on the use of fear-based advertising in the anti-smoking campaign among Turkish Youth. The result of his study shows that the campaign does not make smokers plan to quit smoking. He notes: “Although they are aware of the health risks associated for cigarette use, they don’t like to be reminded about them. Thus, fear appeal advertisements are not effective to stimulate quit behaviour among cigarette users” (Akyuz, 2017, p.2447). To prove the effectiveness of fear-based advertising to change people’s behaviour, take an example from the most commonly found health campaign about smoking.

In this scenario, advertisement designers often link cigarette-smoking with the health deterioration effects for the smokers and that is the kind of images they use to catch smokers’ attention; therefore, deteriorated lungs, people suffering from lung cancer, and new-born babies with abnormalities are used to illustrate the negative impact of smoking. However, these campaigns do not encourage smokers to quit the habit; in fact, they keep on smoking and ignore the campaign. Thus, specialists should advocate for a target-oriented campaign that proves to be effective. Akyuz (2017) states that many a time smokers are more affected by the “financial burden” (p. 2444), rather than by the negative consequences on their health. As Akyuz puts forward, generally the people who are affected by these campaigns and aware of the messages conveyed are non-smokers. Analysed from this perspective, it is necessary to switch the frame by which advertisements are created in order to reach the intended targets, which will allow a higher impact and a better result in the long term.

While designing a health campaign, there are two kinds of fears that could be induced to the message; high-level and low-level threat. It is also important to measure how the people could handle the consequences, either they are manageable or too difficult to handle. Each of them will trigger the public to take several different kinds of action. Relatedly, Janis and Terwiling (1962) state that individuals tend to “avoid the symbolic responses” once fear has been stimulated through communication messages (Akyuz, 2017, p.2436), which reinforces the idea of the impact images have on human brain. Carey, student of Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, University College London and Sarma, the student of School of Psychology, The National University of Ireland, reports how the misused level of threat could make people do the opposite action than the intended goal. Their study is about applying fear-based advertisement with high threat and preventable consequences and fear-based advertisement with high threat and irreversible consequences to the population study.  The result shows that advertisement with preventable consequences are more likely to make people acting as suggested in the campaign. On the other hand, the advertisement with irreversible effects will be more likely to be ignored. The level of threat and consequences used in the content plays important role to encourage behavioural change. The sample provided in the opponent’s argument emphasizes that health deterioration must be happening, thus they respond by ignoring the suggestion.

Another argument provided by the opponents of fear-based advertising points at the designer of the fear-based advertisement, which is not aligning the message to the target’s point of view. Wansink and Cornell from School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University report that a gain-framed message does a better job in approaching the audience of a health campaign. Wansink and Cornell put forward that “Since most audiences do not have the highly specific and detailed health knowledge that the message producers possess, they are less susceptible to fear-based, loss-framed messaging than the producers” (2014, p.10). Generally, the fear-based health campaign is often paired to loss-framed message. Thus, the message implies that the audience will lose something if they ignore the recommended action. In general, campaigns do not do well because the designers are health experts who ignore the public’s behaviour towards the issue. Since they are not actively involved in the topic, the fear-based advertisement will bring less effect to the audience.

To reach the intended goal, the fear-based advertisement could be arranged properly by each element; the model, the setting and the message. Krishen, a student of Marketing & International Business, Lee Business School, University of Nevada and Bui, a student of the Department of Marketing, Loyola Marymount University conducted a pilot project of health campaign by showing an overweight boy ordering indulgent food with a side dish and measured the effect of this campaign to the audiences. According to the project carried out, “The results depict that through this goal activation theory base, properly designed projective advertisements can channel individuals to make better future health decisions” (Krishen, 2015, p.9). Creating a balanced health campaign is the key to convey the message to the public. The sample takes a situation of an overweight child who could be found in daily occurrence. It also chooses the setting in a junk food chain where the boy ordered indulgent food. These situations are familiar to the target audience, thus leaving a bigger impression and leading them to choose a better lifestyle. 

It is fair to conclude that the use of advertisement as a media to encourage people to do prevention or take a decision for a better life is essential. When the advertisement is designed carefully to touch emotional area, this advertisement could make public re-think about continuing poor health decisions such as overeating, consuming indulgent food and smoking. This statement is questionable as the smoking campaign cannot make smokers quit smoking. It is probably the result of the high risk and consequences that cannot be avoided by the target audience. The fear-based advertisement cannot reach the target well because it is designed by the health experts, which learn deeper about the topic compared to the public in general. All things considered, the fear-based advertisement combined with a realistic setting and message proves that it can do better in leading the public towards a better lifestyle.


Peer-Reviewed Journals

Akyuz, A. (2017). The Use of Fear Appeal for Anti-Smoking Advertising Campaigns: A Survey on Turkish Youth. International Journal of Social Science and Economic Research02(02), 2434-2449. Retrieved from https://ijsser.org/uploads/ijsser_02__151.pdf

Wansink, B., & Pope, L. (2014). When do gain-framed health messages work better than fear appeals? Nutrition Reviews73(1), 4-11. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuu010

Electronic Sources

Carey, R., & Sarma, K. (2016). Threat appeals in health communication: messages that elicit fear and enhance perceived efficacy positively impact on young male drivers. BMC Public Health16(1). doi: 10.1186/s12889-016-3227-2

Dahl, D., Frankenberger, K. & Manchanda, R. (2003). “Does It Pay to Shock? Reactions to Shocking and Non-Shocking Advertising Content among University Students”. Journal of Advertising Research, pp. 268- 280. DOI: 10.1017/S0021849903030332

Krishen, A., & Bui, M. (2015). Fear advertisements: influencing consumers to make better health decisions. International Journal of Advertising34(3), 533-548. doi: 10.1080/02650487.2014.996278 

Simpson, J. (2017). Appeal to fear in health care: appropriate or inappropriate? Chiropractic & Manual Therapies25(1). doi: 10.1186/s12998-017-0157-8

Zheng, M. (2020). When and Why Negative Emotional Appeals Work in Advertising: A Review of Research. Open Journal of Social Sciences08(03), 7-16. doi: 10.4236/jss.2020.83002