Who influences consumers’ understanding of drug risks in TV ads?

Analyzing the impact of endorsers on TV prescription drug ads


The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) regulations about prescription drug promotion ensure that claims are truthful, accurately communicated, and offer a balanced presentation of the product’s risks and benefits. Currently, however, they do not require disclosure of an endorser’s relationship to the drug.

Marketers use “everyday people” in prescription drug advertising, anticipating consumers will

  • Identify with the individual endorsing the product
  • Perceive the endorser as credible
  • Ask doctors about the product being advertised

The FDA has tapped Westat to examine the effectiveness of using endorsers to market prescription drugs and their impact on consumers’ understanding of a prescription drug’s risks and benefits.


Working with FDA, Westat will field 2 experimental survey research studies with consumers using the selected medical conditions and analyze the results.

For this research, we are developing 2 sets of television ads for 2 different fictitious prescription drugs. For each set of ads, we will be manipulating important details, including a disclosure statement where we tell participants the spokesperson actually uses/prescribes the drug or is an actor, or we use a control where we say nothing. We are also analyzing the impact depending on whether the endorser is a patient or a physician.

We are ensuring that the creative products we develop for the study are realistic, believable, and conform to FDA guidance around direct-to-consumer (DTC) television promotion.

Our qualitative researchers will evaluate the study questionnaire and supporting materials to ensure they are working as expected with the target consumer audiences.


Study results will contribute to the scientific evidence base around the effectiveness of using endorsers to promote prescription drugs to consumers. In so doing, Westat is helping FDA to ensure that prescription drug promotion is truthful, balanced, and accurately communicated.


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