Skepticism Toward Pharmaceutical Advertising in the U.S. and Germany

Cross-Cultural Buyer Behavior

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1412-6, eISBN: 978-1-84950-485-0

ISSN: 1474-7979

Publication date: 2 May 2007


The purpose of this investigation is to add to the body of knowledge regarding consumer skepticism toward advertising in general, and toward pharmaceutical advertising in particular. The study was conducted in the U.S. and in Germany. Skepticism toward advertising for both prescription and non-prescription pharmaceuticals was analyzed. Additional variables explored include: health consciousness, product involvement with pharmaceuticals, satisfaction with information in pharmaceutical advertising, and the importance of pharmaceutical advertising as a source of information. Furthermore, differences in the cultural value of uncertainty avoidance between U.S. and German consumers were examined and related to skepticism toward pharmaceutical advertising. Three hundred and forty-one Americans and 447 Germans were surveyed. A significant finding of this research revealed that skepticism toward pharmaceutical advertising is lower than skepticism toward advertising in general. Results also indicated that consumers showed no difference in their level of skepticism toward advertising for prescription versus non-prescription drugs. This is a particularly relevant finding as it relates directly to the ongoing discussion in Europe regarding whether or not to lift the ban on advertising for prescription drugs. Skepticism toward pharmaceutical advertising was found to be significantly negatively related to involvement with pharmaceuticals, to satisfaction with the informational content of the advertisements, to satisfaction with the comprehensibility of the advertisements, and to the importance placed on advertising as a source of health information. Regarding cultural differences, U.S. consumers appear to be less skeptical toward advertising in general, and toward advertising for prescription and non-prescription drugs in particular, than German consumers. This may be due to the lower degree of uncertainty avoidance in the U.S. Differences between the two countries related to the additional variables examined in the study are addressed as well. Implications for consumer protection policies are discussed, and recommendations for advertisers of pharmaceutical products are provided. The authors provide a cultural explanation for differences in the degree of skepticism between U.S. and German audiences.


Diehl, S., Mueller, B. and Terlutter, R. (2007), "Skepticism Toward Pharmaceutical Advertising in the U.S. and Germany", Taylor, C. and Lee, D. (Ed.) Cross-Cultural Buyer Behavior (Advances in International Marketing, Vol. 18), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 31-60.

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