Russell, C. A.
; and Russell, D. W. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs
, vol. 69, pgs. 459-467 (2008)Objective: This research investigates whether warning viewers about the presence of embedded messages in the content of a television episode affects viewers' drinking beliefs and whether audience connectedness moderates the warning's impact.
Method: Two hundred fifty college students participated in a laboratory experiment approximating a real-life television viewing experience. They viewed an actual television series episode containing embedded alcohol messages, and their subsequent beliefs about alcohol consequences were measured. Experimental conditions differed based on a 2 (Connectedness Level: low vs high) x 2 (Timing of the Warning: before or after the episode) x 2 (Emphasis of Warning: advertising vs health message) design. Connectedness was measured, and the timing and emphasis of the warnings were manipulated. The design also included a control condition where there was no warning.
Results: The findings indicate that warning viewers about embedded messages in the content of a program can yield significant differences in viewers' beliefs about alcohol. However, the warning's impact differs depending on the viewers' level of connectedness to the program. In particular, in comparison with the no-warning control condition, the advertising prewarning produced lower positive beliefs about alcohol and its consequences but only for the low-connected viewers. Highly connected viewers were not affected by a warning emphasizing advertising messages embedded in the program, but a warning emphasizing health produced significantly higher negative beliefs about drinking than in the control condition.
Conclusions: The presence of many positive portrayals of drinking and alcohol product placements in television series has led many to suggest ways to counter their influence. However, advocates of warnings should be conscious of their differential impact on high- and low-connected viewers.