The problem, as Michael Wolf, a health services researcher and cognitive scientist at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine describes it, is that most ads work like this:
"There's a woman doing yoga in the park with her
golden retriever and whether or not you need a particular medication, you have patients coming in to their doctor saying, 'Should I be taking x drug, because it looks good?' "
At the end of the ad, Wolf
says, you get "a laundry list of possible side effects and warnings associated with use" delivered at a rapid-fire pace.
We try to cram as much as we can in a very small amount of space and expect people to get everything," says Wolf, who is also a member of the FDA's advisory committee risk communication.
"When you do that, you end up losing everything."
points to an earlier study he
co-authored that found, among other things, that the order of information affects whether people remember it or not.
From a list of five instructions on a prescription drug bottle, people tend to remember what they read first, and everything that comes after is less and less memorable.
says this just gets harder if something is read very quickly, as is the case with drug ads on TV, so a shorter list makes sense in theory.
"You can imagine ... now instead of having to talk about eight things in 11 seconds, I can talk about two or three, then you can slow down your speech rate," he