Event Abstract

Behavioral effects of smoking advertisements on adults’ affective response towards tobacco products

  • 1 Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, School of Medicine, Greece

Advertising and marketing techniques revolve around capturing attention and stimulating desire for the promoted items[1], [2]. Marketing techniques endeavor to hold the attention, increase receptivity and heighten susceptibility to the use of the advertised product, more so when the message is smoking[2]–[4]. Our study aims at evaluating, via behavioral, non-invasive measures, the affective response while viewing smoking advertisements -of various communication styles- that promote tobacco products. It is crucial to identify the impact of tobacco product advertisements not only on adult smokers but also on prospective consumers [5]. In order to address this issue, we administered an online questionnaire to a large sample of adults (n=175, mean age= 36.98±9.15 years, females= 118, non-smokers= 123 high income= 82). The questionnaire consisted of 326 questions. Twenty-six questions assessed the socio-demographics (e.g. income status, heavy/light smokers) as well as the smoking habits of the participants and the rest assessed their affective response towards 60 images (5 questions/image) that depicted smoking advertisements of recurring communication styles (10 images/ recurrent style). Specifically, we evaluated the participants’ responses along five axes; emotion elicitation (valence), arousing effect (activation), easiness of interpretation (understanding), appreciation of advertisement content (color, text, slogan) and consumer intentions towards specific brands. The questionnaire duration was approximately 15-20 minutes. We also deployed a small scale eye tracking experiment in order to assess an additional measure regarding the participants’ intentions during the free exploration of the same 60 advertisements. Our small sample consisted of 11 participants (mean age= 45.45±16.11 years, females= 4, non-smokers= 6, high income= 8) of normal or corrected-to-normal visual acuity. Participants passively viewed 60 advertisement images for a duration of 6 seconds on a homogenous black background. Stimuli and inter-stimuli (fixation cross) were projected centered on screen. Each run began with the projection of a fixation cross for 10 seconds. Their gaze data were collected with the Eye-tribe Pro tracker. By processing the videos and eye tracking data, we produced datasets that mirror the subjects’ attitude. Our results include gaze maps for each subject and image, as well as cumulative gaze maps per image and per category of subjects (all smokers, non-smokers, female smokers, female non-smokers, male smokers and male non-smokers). The internet survey results indicate that there is a difference between smokers and non-smokers on the way the advertisements affect them emotionally. In addition, male participants (smokers and non-smokers) showed a preference for advertisements with human elements (faces, body figures). A similar outcome was found for female smokers, who showed a greater overall appreciation on this kind of advertisements. Furthermore, male non-smokers seem to be a more easily reached audience by any kind of smoking advertisements as they were able to efficiently interpret their meaning. The eye tracking results (albeit with a small subject pool) indicate that non-smokers in contrast to smokers, prioritize their focus on the elements of the advertisements that depict cigarette packs. On the other hand, smokers tend to focus more on elements such as faces and scenery rather than those related to the actual product. However, all participants fixated more on the regions of the advertisements depicting the actual tobacco product (cigarette pack) when it was displayed in close proximity to human faces. In the absence of human elements, the participants were attracted more by the symbolic elements of the advertisements rather than the actual product itself. Not surprisingly, the textual anti-smoking messages depicted on various advertisements only slightly attracted the participants’ gaze. Overall, we report that adults’ current smoking and future smoking intentions are in close relation to marketing exposure. The findings of the present study indicate factors of marketing penetration even to non-smokers and may potentially impact policy design for the comprehensive approach to reduce and hopefully eliminate the function of marketing in smoking promotion[6], [7]. Assessing aspects of advertisement effectiveness enables us to formulate more efficient control policies so as to prevent the general public from being overly affected by advertisement content.


This work was supported by the SmokeFreeBrain European Project GA no. 681120.


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Keywords: advertising, Smoking, Tobacco, Marketing, questionnaire, eye tracking, Behavioral Research

Conference: SAN2016 Meeting, Corfu, Greece, 6 Oct - 9 Oct, 2016.

Presentation Type: Poster Presentation in SAN2016 Conference

Topic: Posters

Citation: Xefteris S, Styliadis C, Romanopoulou E and Bamidis PD (2016). Behavioral effects of smoking advertisements on adults’ affective response towards tobacco products. Front. Hum. Neurosci. Conference Abstract: SAN2016 Meeting. doi: 10.3389/conf.fnhum.2016.220.00108

Received: 29 Jul 2016; Published Online: 01 Aug 2016.

* Correspondence: Dr. Stefanos Xefteris, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, School of Medicine, Thessaloniki, Macedonia, 54124, Greece, sxefteris@auth.gr

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