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Methodological Issues in Consumer Protection Surveys Michael B. Mazis School of Business American University 2007 ABA Consumer Protection Conference.

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Presentation on theme: "Methodological Issues in Consumer Protection Surveys Michael B. Mazis School of Business American University 2007 ABA Consumer Protection Conference."— Presentation transcript:

1 Methodological Issues in Consumer Protection Surveys Michael B. Mazis School of Business American University 2007 ABA Consumer Protection Conference

2 FTC v. Telebrands $19 million in Ab Force sales – 2001 to 2002 Complaint – September 2003 ALJ opinion – September 2004 Commission Opinion – Sept Affirmed in Fourth Circuit – Aug. 2006

3 Ab Force Ads EMS contraction of stomach muscles Recall commercials for other ab belts No express claims about weight loss or fat loss Show models Implied claims Massage?

4 FTC Survey Open-Ended Questions – What did ad communicate? (22% flat abs, lose weight/fat, gets you in shape) Closed-Ended Qs – Using Ab Force… Well-defined abdominal muscles (65%) Lose inches around waist (58%) Lose weight (43%) Effective alternative to exercise (39%) Removes fat deposits (23%)

5 Is the Ab Force ad deceptive? Alternative Explanations Inattentive respondents Yea Saying Pre-Existing Beliefs – about other Ab ab belt ads Non-deceptive elements of ad Questions may be leading or biased

6 Noise Extraneous factors that make it impossible to state that ad CAUSED the observed results (deception) How to control for NOISE?

7 Controls - Filters Questioning Approaches Filter Questions – eliminate respondents who are guessing Did the ad say, show or imply that Ab Force improves users appearance, fitness, or health? (to qualify for closed-ended questions)

8 Controls – Yea-Saying Yea-Saying Did or didnt the ad say, show or imply that Ab Force improves users appearance, fitness, or health or dont you know? Necessary but not sufficient controls

9 Control Questions Add additional items to control for yea-saying – items not appearing in challenged ad yet plausibly associated with product Using AbForce… Lowers blood pressure (6%) Relieves pain from stomach ulcers (5%) Relieves nausea (4%) Limited as a control – controls for yea-saying only

10 Control Advertisements Control for Pre-Existing Beliefs Control for non-deceptive elements of ad Goal: To show respondent a non- deceptive ad as close as possible to allegedly deceptive ad 1.Modified Ad – purge misleading elements; correct misimpression

11 Potential Problems with Creating Modified Ads Technical difficulties – print vs. TV ads Brand name – Ab Force/Aspercreme May be little remaining How much to remove – fully cleansed (Stouffer)

12 2. Ad with Disclaimer Corrects alleged deception with statement Ab Force is effective for massage Potential problems What should be the message? Is message effective? Will consumers notice it and believe it?

13 3. Same Brand – Different Ad Often used for TV ads (FTC v. Kraft) Problems Must have an available non-misleading ad for brand What is best ad to use? (multiple control ads)

14 4. Different Brands Ad Used when no other control ad available (FTC v. Novartis) Problem – many differences between test ad and control ad

15 Ab Force: Test vs. Control Ads Closed-Ended Qs – Using Ab Force… Well-defined abdominal muscles (65% - 48% = 17%) Lose inches around waist (58% - 42% = 16%) Lose weight (43% - 28% = 15%) Effective alternative to exercise (39% - 29% = 10%) Removes fat deposits (23% - 19% = 4%)

16 Conclusions No cookbook studies Control questions – useful but not usually sufficient Control Ads (or other stimuli) used in most studies Trade-offs in selecting control ads Knowledgeable, Experienced, and Independent Expert


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