Fair balance of benefit and risk information in consumer prescription drug advertising (DTCA) has received much research attention. In this regard, it has been well-documented that varying levels of risk disclosure prominence have disproportional effects on consumer response to the DTC ad. However, little research has examined how the prominence effects can be maximized or minimized depending on consumers’ varying levels of knowledge of the FDA’s regulatory role for DTCA. In a similar vein, rare research has been conducted to investigate how such regulatory knowledge directly affects consumers’ risk disclosure coping strategies.
Drawing on consumer information processing perspectives, this research employs an experimental approach to examine one manipulated categorical variable, one measured continuous variable, and their interactive effects on consumer response to the ad, while controlling for potential covariates. Specifically, two levels of risk disclosure prominence are manipulated (high vs. low) and coded as a dummy variable, and DTCA regulatory knowledge is measured as a continuous variable. Further, based on the persuasion knowledge model (PKM) framework, DTCA regulatory knowledge is tested as a moderator of the prominence effects. Consumer memory such as unaided-recall and aided-recognition of the health risks of the medicine presented in the ad as well as self-reported perceived attention to risk disclosure are addressed as criterion variables.
The major findings are summarized as follows: (1) both higher DTCA regulatory knowledge and higher prominence enhanced perceived attention to risk disclosure; (2) both higher DTCA regulatory knowledge and higher prominence enhanced consumer recognition of risk information; (3) DTCA regulatory knowledge moderated the prominence effects on perceived attention to risk disclosure; (4) the main DTCA regulatory knowledge effects and the main prominence effects on consumer recall and recognition were mediated through perceived attention to risk disclosure; (5) However, the moderated mediation effect analyses revealed that the effects of prominence on recall and recognition were mediated through perceived attention among low DTCA regulatory knowledge consumers, whereas the mediating effects were minimal among high DTCA regulatory knowledge consumers.
The overall findings support the current study’s conceptual framework. The theoretical, managerial, and consumer education/public health implications of this research are discussed.