Targeted Truth: An Experiment Testing the Efficacy of Counterindustry Tobacco Advertisements Targeted to Black Individuals and Sexual and Gender Minority Individuals

Chris Skurka, Christopher W. Wheldon, Nicholas Eng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Introduction: Some groups disproportionately suffer from tobacco-related illnesses-in part, because the tobacco industry has strategically targeted these groups. To combat industry targeting, antitobacco media campaigns (eg, the truth campaign) have used analogous messaging strategies, describing the industrys targeted marketing practices to reach these vulnerable groups. We tested the efficacy of counterindustry tobacco advertisements targeted to vulnerable groups (Black individuals and sexual and gender minority [SGM] individuals). Aims and Methods: From March to July 2020, we recruited N = 1161 young adults in the United States, including n = 430 Black young adults and n = 452 SGM young adults (with n = 108 identifying as Black and SGM). In a web-based, between-subjects experiment, participants were randomized to watch one of four types of advertisement (ad): (1) ads from the truth antismoking campaign not targeted toward a specific vulnerable group, (2) Black-targeted truth ads, (3) SGM-targeted truth ads, or (4) unrelated control ads. We examined effects on support for tobacco control policies, counterindustry motivation, counterindustry beliefs, perceived effectiveness, and anger toward the industry. Results: Relative to control, non-targeted ads increased policy support, and Black-targeted ads increased motivation and beliefs. Targeted ads elicited anger regardless of the audience targeted. However, in general, neither Black identity nor SGM identity moderated the effects of the targeted ads. Conclusions: We offer little evidence that targeted counterindustry ads are especially influential for their intended group. However, targeted counterindustry appeals may be successful at evoking industry anger regardless of the audience targeted. Implications: Counterindustry advertisements from the truth campaign targeting Black individuals and SGM individuals had limited effect on tobacco control policies, counterindustry motivation, and counterindustry beliefs. However, counterindustry ads evoked anger toward the industry regardless of ingroup status, which in turn was positively associated with anti-industry outcomes. These results, considered alongside the extant literature, suggest little benefit to developing targeted counterindustry tobacco campaigns for specific groups and instead point to the utility of developing campaigns that appeal to broader audiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1542-1550
Number of pages9
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Volume23
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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