Message processing of fear-based anti-drink driving advertisements

Fry, Marie-Louise (2006) Message processing of fear-based anti-drink driving advertisements. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


While overall road deaths in Australia have fallen since the late 1980's and the impact of road-safety advertising appears to be positive, alcohol-related road fatalities remain the leading cause of death among young Australian adults. Fatality and injury rates continue within this cohort despite increases in alcohol-related knowledge, continuing education efforts in the Australian school system, increased funding for police enforcement and high media presence of road safety advertising (Peder et al 2004). Notwithstanding advances in communication technologies, highly graphic, emotional, shock style television advertising remains the primary medium for road safety message dissemination. Rather than targeting those highest at-risk for drink driving, road safety advertisements typically target an undifferentiated general audience. To date understanding the process by which road safety advertising influences attitudes and behaviour has been the centre of fear arousal research. Nonetheless, there has been little examination of how young adults who differ in drink-driving risk-propensity (high versus low) respond to and process anti-drink driving advertisements designed to modify an avoidable behaviour. Taking a receiver oriented approach, the focus of this study examines how young adult, novice drivers who differ in 'need-for-sensation' (NFS) risk propensity respond to, and process, anti-drink driving advertisements that differ in arousal capacity (i.e. high, low sensation-value). The investigation was conducted in two stages: Study 1 (qualitative) and Study II (quantitative). Study I, the qualitative phase, explored by focus group interviews attitudes, perceptions, beliefs and experiences of sixty young adults aged 18 to 25 years towards alcohol consumption, drink-driving, and anti-drink driving advertising. The major qualitative finding is that young adults characterise drink-driving as a rational, deliberate, planned and accepted behaviour. Young adults were aware of the choices available for not drinking and driving and were aware of the health, social and physical (self and property) risks associated with alcohol consumption and associated behaviours. Nonetheless, the short-term personal experiences of revelry and group cohesion were more pertinent to them on an everyday basis. Alcohol consumption and drink-driving behaviour did not appear to differ between university and nonuniversity students or gender, yet there were differences in attitudes and behaviour across the degree studied within the university cohort. Study II, the quantitative phase, was segmented into three sections. First, the study provides empirical support for NFS as a relevant a priori individual differences segmentation variable for differentiating between those more likely, versus less likely, to engage in responsible drink-driving behaviour. As expected low NFS individuals were more likely to not drink and drive. Second, findings support an interaction effect between an advertisement's sensation value and individual differences variable, NFS, on response outcomes. High NFS individuals engaged in higher levels of adaptive appraisal on the high sensation-value advertisement condition as compared to the low sensationvalue advertisement condition. Low NFS individuals did not discriminate across either advertisement condition. Adaptive appraisal was not counteracted by a corresponding increase in maladaptive appraisal. Both high and low NFS individuals viewed the high sensation-value advertisement condition with high levels of perceived threat and viewed the low sensation-value advertisement with higher levels of perceived efficacy. Yet, although high NFS individuals viewed the high sensation-value advertisement with high levels of threat they simultaneously viewed this advertisement with low levels of perceived efficacy. Third, NFS was not found to be a strong predictor moderating the relationship between message processing (cognitive, sensory, narrative) and response outcomes. The findings indicate strong support for a direct relationship between two modes of message processing: cognitive and narrative processing and response outcomes. Message recipients processed anti-drink driving advertisements via two routes to persuasion. There was stronger cognitive processing evident on advertisements possessing high arousal capacity, whereas stronger narrative processing was evident on low arousal capacity advertisements. This study suggests that those advertisements that possess high arousal capacity have the capability of facilitating attention to the central argument, the consequences of drinking and driving, as well as how drinking and driving may affect the message recipients' life. Alternatively, those messages that impart high levels of rational information have the capability of increasing attention to the peripheral cues in the message. It is also suggested that different styles of message processing, central versus peripheral, act in a synergistic way to influence response outcomes which indicates that there is no single route to persuasion. Individuals process messages in a complex manner attending to various signals in order to evaluate various components of the message. For road safety practitioners and social marketers the results of this study illustrates practical benefits for the design of anti-drink driving advertisements based on the segmentation variable NFS. The finding that high NFS individuals require advertisements that possess high levels of arousal capacity (i.e.: high in sensation-value) is an important development. Importantly, low NFS individuals do not discriminate in accepting the recommendations of advertisements that differ in arousal capacity clearly suggests that they accept messages regardless of their arousal capacity. This finding indicates that the goal of road traffic authorities, advertising agencies and social marketers should be directed towards targeting high NFS individuals who are more atrisk for a drink-drive fatality. That message recipients process anti-drink driving messages via two routes to persuasion indicates that message designers need to consider the mix between the sensation-value of the message and consideration of the way message recipients' process the message, i.e. via central/systematic versus peripheral/heuristic components of the advertisement. Further investigation into the dual processing of anti-drink driving advertisements once individuals are exposed to the message is warranted to further understand the psychological processes influencing message processing. The findings of this research have important implications for both practitioners and academics. This research has provided an insight into the complexity of young adult's response outcomes and message processing of fear-based anti-drink driving messages.

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ID Code: 16381
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Drennan, Judy, Douglas, Evan, Dann, Susan, & Gillard, Patricia
Keywords: sensation seeking, fear arousal, message processing, drink-driving, advertising, alcohol, young adults
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Department: Faculty of Business
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Marie-Louise Fry
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 04:02
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2017 14:41

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