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Putting out ineffective ads

Janet Babin Oct 31, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il’s known to have a taste for foreign cigarettes. And being in control of the media as he is, he probably doesn’t have to deal with antismoking ads. But a new study out here today says some of those ads — the ones from the tobacco industry — are having unintended consequences. From North Carolina Public Radio, Janet Babin reports.

JANET BABIN: Maybe you’ve seen the industry-funded ads. They encourage parents to communicate with their kids. Like this one from Philip Morris:

PHILLIP MORRIS AD:“Talk to your kids about not smoking. They’ll listen.”

Or, maybe they won’t. Shocking as it may sound, kids don’t always listen to their parents. And that appears to be the case in this new study.

It’s from researchers based at the University of Illinois and the University of Michigan. It found that these anti-tobacco ads are ineffective, and could actually encourage teens to smoke down the road.

Professor Melanie Wakefield was a lead researcher on the study:

MELANIE WAKEFIELD:“Students with higher amounts of exposure to these parent-targeted ads, in fact, had more positive perceptions of smoking and were more likely to intend to smoke in future and were more likely to have smoked in the past month.”

Philip Morris spokesman David Sutton says the company is reviewing the study, but has research that proves its parent-targeted campaign is working.

Clemson University professor Patricia Knolls isn’t surprised by the research. She says it may just be a question of reverse psychology. Knolls points out that the ads target parents and teens are most influenced by people their own age:

PATRICIA KNOLLS:“Whereas we didn’t trust anybody over 30, they don’t trust anybody over 20. But especially they’re so distrustful of big business, they’ll believe each other but they just don’t believe anything that an adult is going to tell them.”

The study was published online today by the American Journal of Public Health.

I’m Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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