Visayas State University, Leyte, Philippines
Concern about the impact of advertising on farmers’ pesticide use decisions and practices has long been voiced by integrated pest management (IPM) advocates. As pesticides are being marketed as a fast-moving consumer good (FMCG), they are made freely available. To increase sales, pesticide companies embark on massive advertising campaigns where advertising messages tend to focus on creating emotional appeals, particularly fear and sense of power to get farmers to buy their products. In some countries, farmers are constantly exposed to ubiquitous and colorful billboards, signboards, magazine advertisements, stickers and television and radio plugs which remind them to use pesticides in order to get a good crop. Thus, advertising for pesticides tends to increase misuse. In addition, companies also use a wide variety of promotional tools to stimulate a stronger market response. Sales representatives, at community meetings and seminars, give away samples, t-shirts, caps, and other gifts. Farmers are being locked in this attitude to either cure or prevent pests and diseases, completely contradictory to IPM principles.
Modern-day advertising generally uses conditioning to create associations between products and consumer needs (Kincheloe and Horn 2006). Knowing that these kinds of connection are usually temporary, companies follow Pavlov’s ideas of repetition and continually advertise to keep these associations in farmers’ minds. The lack of repetition and reinforcements in media campaigns could result in discontinuance. The need for continuous repetition, motivation, and reinforcement to sustain a learned behavior such as stopping unnecessary insecticide spraying and IPM practices is supported by Bandura’s (1977) “Social Learning Theory,” which emphasizes the need to keep the learning going by various forms of reinforcements. The chemical industry, on the other hand, employs repetition in all its advertising campaigns and is thus able to establish higher credibility and brand familiarity.
Advertisements are repeated endlessly not only to attract new customers but also to reassure current customers. Sandman (2000) noted that repetition creates a direct relationship between the product and the fulfillment of customers’ needs. Most advertising is targeted at customers who have already decided to buy the product and is intended to reinforce their decision and strengthen their behavioral commitment.
In their analysis of the role of emotions and risky technologies, Buck and Davis (2010) noted that emotions are routinely exploited in the marketing of risk such that emotional appeals used in advertising and propaganda support the mindless acceptance of risk, including technological risk. As a result, emotion is a key element in the design of effective messages warning of risk. To be effective, a warning must grab attention, stimulate memory, stir emotion, provide clear instruction, and show outcomes. As it is, effective warnings are toned down because they could affect sales. According to Buck and Davis (2010), risky behaviors such as the use of alcohol and tobacco are supported by highly effective emotional advertisements, and the so-called “warning labels” in the United States on alcohol and tobacco products do not provide effective warning. Similarly, the promotion of pesticides has been supported by strong emotional messages that do not deny, but rather ignore risk.
Advertisers and marketers have used emotion effectively, sometimes to encourage dangerous behavior and sometimes to promote the mindless acceptance of risk. Petty and Cacioppo’s (1976) Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) distinguished between rational “central route” and “peripheral route” cognitive processing. Emotion was seen to be important in the peripheral route to persuasion where the issue at hand has relatively low involvement or personal relevance to the individual, and there is therefore little incentive to devote scarce cognitive resources to evaluating the arguments.
Wallack and Montgomery (2000) noted that advertising may produce a full range of unintended effects. The most direct way that advertising may affect public health is through the promotion of health-compromising products such as pesticides, tobacco and alcohol. They added that in developing countries the resources for the risks associated with product use are systematically minimized or totally ignored. As in most advertisements, the symbols used for pesticides, alcohol, and tobacco tend to be positive and conveyed to project success and wealth. Healthy and successful models in the ads convey the basic theme that product use will contribute to the wealth and success of the consumer. For example, in a recent study of farmers’ interpretation of pesticide posters, farmers were attracted to the superman image used in the Nurelle poster which shows power against pest. Male respondents liked the “boxing” image in the poster since it reminded them of Manny Pacquiao. Other participants said that they liked the word “Champion” because for them it implied effectiveness of the insecticides against pests.
The dysfunctional consequences of unregulated promotion of health-compromising products such as pesticides call for better control of marketing so as not to deceive, create farmers’ overestimations and increase loss aversions.
Buck, R. & Davis, W.A. 2010. Marketing risk: Emotional appeals can promote the mindless acceptance of risk. In Sabine Roeser (ed.). Emotions and Risky Technologies. The International Library of Ethics, Law and Technology, 5:61-80.
Kincheloe JL, Horn RA. 2006. The Praeger handbook of education and psychology. Vol.1. Sta. Barbara, Calif. (USA): Praeger Publishers.
Petty, R.E. and Cacioppo, J.T. 1986. The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 19: 123-162.
Sandman PM. 2000. Media campaigns. In: Day BA, Monroe MC, editors. Environmental Education & Communication for a Sustainable World. Washington, D.C. (USA): Academy for Educational Development. p 79-84.
Wallack, L. and Montgomery, K. 1992. Advertising for all by the year 2000: Public health implications for less developed countries. Journal of Public Health Policy, 13(2):204-223, Summer 1992.