Master of Mass Communication (MMC)


Mass Communication

Document Type



Americans’ adoption of the Internet has spawned the increased usage of this medium for direct-to-consumer advertising by pharmaceutical manufacturers, despite the widespread controversy over the ethics of the practice, the educational value of direct-to-consumer advertising, and the ultimate cost of the practices to the public. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates the industry’s advertising within traditional media, the agency does not yet impose standards for direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medications on the Internet. This content analysis of the visual and textual cues of 100 direct-to-consumer Web sites for prescription medications identifies the unexpected strong presence of gain frames relative to loss frames, as well as the manufacturers’ focus on educating consumers, evident within the Web sites’ considerable utilization of informational advertising appeals and informational rewards. Possibly, the Internet’s ability to support rich media and the virtually unlimited space on the Web sites encourages these manufacturers to employ informational appeals and offer a variety of informational rewards. While the data reveal the manufacturers’ strong usage of interactive elements, the industry can improve by fully utilizing the features of the Internet to truly benefit patients as an information source, while attracting prospective consumers. While several shortcomings are evident, including the infrequent usage of minority actors within the advertisements, the pharmaceutical industry appears to have effectively regulated itself through applying the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s direct-to-consumer advertising standards for traditional media to the World Wide Web. Implications of these findings for the pharmaceutical industry and the public are discussed, in addition to the study’s impact on future research.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Anne Osborne