Reader Categorization of a Controversial Communication: Advertisement Versus Editorial.

Douglas Hausknecht, The University of Akron


Using a disguised, structured technique, the authors collected consumer judgments regarding an editorial advertisement entitled "Of cigarettes and science" sponsored by R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Respondents were shown an actual newspaper section that contained diferent types of editorials and advertisements, including the "Of cigarettes and science" item. After the respondents indirectly classified each item as either an editorial or advertisement, they were asked to list at least two characteristics about the appearance or wording of the "Of cigarettes and science" item that caused them to classify it as they did. The majority of respondents thought the item was an advertisement because it looked different from editorial items, was sponsored by R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, and seemed to have a persuasive or promotional content. Over one-fourth of the respondents, however, identified the communication as an editorial because of its lack of direct sales information and its extensive wording. The authors contend that legal and regulatory bodies should consider the effects of both source and intent of the message when arguing consumer impact.