Evaluation of PapScreen's magazine advertisement 2003: focus groups with early re-screeners

Hoey L, Dempsey D, Mullins R

CBRC Research Paper Series No. 8

Aim: The aim of the study was to evaluate the response to a magazine advertisement developed by PapScreen Victoria (PSV), which was primarily designed to discourage early re-screening.

Method: Women who reported that they usually had a Pap test every year, and who were at least occasional readers of women’s magazines, were recruited to one of three focus groups to discuss ‘women’s health issues’. All participants were sent a copy of either Cleo, Cosmo or New Woman one week prior to their focus group and asked to spend a minimum of one hour reading it, paying particular attention to the advertisements. At the focus groups, spontaneous recall of any advertisement from the magazine was first recorded. The women were then given time to study the PSV advertisement before discussing their responses to it.

Results: Very few women spontaneously recalled the PSV advertisement. Those few who did attributed this to its visual impact rather than its text. After being given the opportunity to study the advertisement the women generally rated the visuals as clever and eye-catching and the message as clear. However, the text was seen as condescending by a small proportion, and as being too wordy and serious for the magazines. Of most concern was the finding that after studying the advertisement, the women still did not perceive any negatives to having frequent tests, but still felt prompt detection of abnormal cells and consequent peace of mind was of benefit. At best, women said they would talk to their GP about whether they screened too frequently.

Conclusion: The advertisement is poorly suited to a magazine format, becoming lost in the general clutter of the magazines and presenting too much information for such a context. An alternative location would be convenience advertising (ie, the back of toilet doors) where women would have time to read the messages. If the advertisement is used in such a context some changes should be made to reduce the perception that it is condescending and to present some disadvantages to early re-screening.