Marketing drugs, marketing health care relationships: a content analysis of visual cues in direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising

Health Commun. 2004;16(2):131-57. doi: 10.1207/S15327027HC1602_1.


Proponents and opponents of direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs argue that it promotes greater participation in health care by consumers with significant implications for public health and health care outcomes. This article (a). proposes a social cognitive theoretical framework to explain DTCA's effects, and (b). reports the first in a series of studies on DTCA's observational learning functions that may influence consumer behavior and the physician-patient relationship. This investigation addresses visual features of print DTCA. Results focus on the prevalence and nature of models featured in the ads and how visual cues may offer identity and relational motivators while reinforcing the value of prescription drug treatments. Further, DTCA may market disenfranchising images that increase disparity in health care information and access, despite their argued educational function.

MeSH terms

  • Advertising / classification
  • Advertising / methods
  • Advertising / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cognition
  • Drug Industry*
  • Drug Prescriptions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Persuasive Communication
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Public Health
  • Social Perception
  • United States
  • Visual Perception*