There is an ongoing global debate over the potential benefits and risks of allowing direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines (DTCA). The core of this debate concerns the identification of DTCA either as a beneficial procedure to be promoted or as a damaging procedure to be abolished. Economic data on DTCA suggest that this form of advertising has an impact on consumers. Based on this premise, we explore the use of argumentation theory to inquire into the reasons for this success. In particular, by combining perspectives from argumentation theory and marketing research this paper aims to test the hypothesis of whether DTCA presents information framed in potentially misleading, but persuasive, argumentative structures. We highlight and discuss the results of two studies designed to assess whether readers perceive DTCA as argumentative and, if so, which explicit and implicit elements provide groundings for the inference that consumers draw from the ads. The analysis highlights the presence in DTCA of dubious arguments (fallacies and distracting claims) that may go unnoticed. Also, it illustrates the nature of readers' wrong assumptions that arise independently from the contents of the ads. These factors seem to influence the level of the self-perceived persuasiveness of DTCA.
- Argumentation theory
- Direct-to-consumer advertising
- Distracting claims
- Persuasion effects