Do Cute Animations in DTC Drug Ads Mislead?

March 2, 2016 – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking comments from the public on research entitled “Animation in Direct-to-Consumer Advertising” to examine how animation affects the comprehension of direct-to-consumer (DTC) television advertisements for prescription drugs. The FDA noted that animation is used in prescription drug ads in a variety of ways. Perhaps the simplest way is the use of rotoscoped animation, which involves tracing live-action images frame-by-frame to create animated characters. Abilify has used this technique in advertisements (Ref. 5). In this instance, the animated character was not central to the informational content of the ad; instead, the animation appeared to be a visual technique to attract attention. Whether a drug ad with a rotoscoped human results in greater comprehension of product benefit and risk information than an ad with a human actor is unclear. The few studies that have examined this technique in drug ads have found that animated human characters either had no effect on perceived product risk (Ref. 6) or led to poorer recognition of drug side effects.

FDA Announcement:
WARNING: Direct marketers beware! The TCPA provides a private right of action for violations and statutory damages in the amount of $500 for each violation and up to $1,500 for each willful violation.