The impact of fear appeal advertising on disposition formation in HIV/Aids related communication
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Research to guide marketing practitioners in social issue-related communication remains underexplored. The increases in various social problems have caused practitioners to return to fear appeals as motivation to influence individuals to think and behave in a certain way. The HIV/AIDS pandemic is a major concern worldwide, as well as in South Africa, and some marketing communication campaigns do not seem to be producing the expected results. During 2007, an alarming 33.2 million people worldwide were infected with HIV. The African continent, and specifically sub-Saharan Africa, is still hardest hit by this pandemic. The high level of new HIV infections occurring daily in South Africa reflects the difficulties faced by HIV/AIDS education and prevention campaigns. Approximately 5.41 million people were living with HIV in 2006. This equates to about 11 percent of the total population and approximately 1 000 AIDS deaths occur every day. The social climate in South Africa has not been conducive to safe sexual messages, and there is a continuing need to encourage safe sexual behaviour, and awareness of the detrimental effects of HIV/AIDS. An estimated 60 percent of all new HIV/AIDS infections in South Africa occur in people between the ages of 15 and 25 years, with young women being more at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS than young men. This trend implies that the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic will be felt extensively in the next decade. Additionally, HIV/AIDS prevention programmes for the youth are not having the intended effect to promote partner reduction, consistent condom use and prompt treatment for sexually transmitted infections. These factors confirm that HIV/AIDS marketing communication programmes are of central importance in slowing down the spread of the disease among South African adolescents. Marketing communication is evolving to an era of tailored messages targeted at individuals and more sophisticated segmentation of target audiences. South African young adults reside in a country with diverse racial groups and cultural backgrounds. The more knowledge about their feelings and fears about HIV/AIDS become available, the more effective marketing communication can be developed. Overall marketing communication campaigns must be tailored to the specific needs of adolescents and the promotion of safer sexual behaviour should be at the core of HIV/AIDS programmes, since they are embarking on their sexual lives and are therefore open to behavioural change interventions. This study investigated whether the use of fear increases the likelihood of adopting appropriate behaviour pertaining to HIV/AIDS. Fear, attitude towards the advertisements, severity, susceptibility and efficacy were examined to ascertain the influence of fear appeals. Findings provide encouraging evidence for the persuasive power of fear appeals. Fear appeals can be a strong motivator if accompanied by high efficacy messages, to improve knowledge and to influence attitudes about HIV/AIDS. Susceptibility to the disease among adolescents also influences behaviour, and the importance of individual factors, including racial characteristics and personality, was confirmed. The empirical results of the study reveal that together with message factors like message content and media usage, the goal of changing adolescents’ sexual behaviour in the midst of the HIV/AIDS pandemic can be achieved.