Food advertisements containing 'scientific' and 'lay-person' keywords: responses from a sample of female Australian Consumers



Publication Details

Motion, J. M., McMahon, A., Jones, S. C., Tapsell, L. C. & Williams, P. (2010). Food advertisements containing 'scientific' and 'lay-person' keywords: responses from a sample of female Australian Consumers. Nutrition and Dietetics, 67 (1), 6-12.


Aim:  To describe female consumer responses to food advertisements containing nutrition messages differentiated by use of ‘scientific’ and ‘lay person’ keywords.

Method:  ‘Lay person’ and ‘scientific’ keywords were identified in advertisements from an audit of Australia's 30 top circulation magazines by people with or without formal scientific training in nutrition. Eight sample print advertisements were selected for consideration in focus group interviews. Four semistructured qualitative focus group interviews were conducted (women 25–63 years, n = 25 participants in total). Each group discussed four advertisements (two with ‘lay person’ and two with ‘scientific’ nutrition keywords). Thematic content analysis, including constant comparison and consensus, was driven by identifying types of responses and attributed meanings of keywords.

Results:  Participants' responses to the sample advertisements ranged from giving an immediate judgement, attributing meaning to keywords, responding to the keyword's novelty, describing the process of information analysis and addressing tangential issues such as photographic cues. The diversity in response occurred whether the advertisement contained ‘scientific’ or ‘lay person’ keywords and reflected the influence of multiple discourses on perceptions of the credibility and persuasiveness of nutrition messages

Conclusions:  Consumers' responses to keywords in advertisements are complex. Communications research that tests the message in its total context is needed to ensure the meaning of nutrition messages are being conveyed as is intended.

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