We sat down with associate professor Jisu Huh (Ph.D., University of Georgia) to learn more about her research and hot topics in advertising.
Tell us about what you're working on right now.
My research focuses on how pharmaceutical advertisers use mass media and effects of such advertising. Right now I'm focused on the emerging phenomenon of prescription drug advergames, where pharmaceutical companies create games to educate consumers on their products and health-related information. I'm looking at both the learning and marketing outcomes of these games. What are consumers learning? Do these games help advertisers? In what specific ways? Should these games be regulated?
What have you found so far about the impact of advergames?
There seem to be some differences in terms of learning outcomes. When the information is presented in a game situation, people's learning of FDA-required drug information tends to be lower than website or print ads. The consumer may be paying more attention to the game itself instead of the information. Next, we'll add eye tracker measurements to actually see what parts of the games people are focusing on, in comparison to other types of direct-to-consumer advertising seen in websites and print ads. It's possible that these games could be really useful and instructional, but it needs to be done carefully because a lot of advergames currently target youth, particularly with unhealthy snack products, and children may gain a brand affinity through these games without being informed of the health risks. Similar effects may be possible for the prescription drug category.
What have you discovered about trust in pharmaceutical advertising?
If advertising wants to function as a source of consumer information, it must be trusted. I have done research on people's trust of various forms of advertising and what kinds of sources are more or less trusted. My research examines both message and consumer characteristics influencing consumers' trust of ads in online and offline environments. Consumer trust is a more important issue in the online communication context because there is a higher risk and uncertainty involved. Consumers can use a lot of different cues to determine trust, for example, is there enough information about the information source? How recent is the information? Who owns the website? Who wrote the information? Is there explicit commercial intent behind the website? In some cases you can't even tell who the source is and, in those situations, consumers' trust in the website would be much lower.
How do people trust companies versus personal connections?
There are two different types of trust. People's trust in a company tends to be calculative trust. It's based on your own calculations, economic considerations and your past experiences with the company. People's trust in their family or friends is relational trust. It's based on your relationship with that person. You feel these people have your best interests in mind and really understand you. These two different types of trust operate differently in today's viral, user-generated media environment, generating many interesting research questions. -Sarah Howard