To examine the effects of psychographically targeted e-cigarette advertisements on young adults.
A total of 2100 young adults (18–29 years old) representing five peer crowds (groups with shared values, interests, and lifestyle: Mainstream, Young Professional, Hip Hop, Hipster, and Partier) were recruited from a nationwide opt-in online panel. Participants were randomly assigned to view e-cigarette advertisements featuring characters that either did or did not match their own peer crowd affiliation and evaluated advertising effectiveness using Likert-type and semantic differential scales. Participants also reported their attitudes toward using e-cigarettes.
No significant overall effect of peer crowd matching was observed. However, significant two-way interaction effects emerged where matching advertisements yielded higher evaluations than mismatching advertisements among those who currently do not use tobacco and nicotine products and among Mainstream participants. Advertisements featuring Mainstream characters were in general rated more highly than other advertisements. Additional analyses found significant effects of peer crowd matching among those who viewed advertisements featuring non-Mainstream characters.
Peer crowd-based targeting can increase the effectiveness of e-cigarette advertisements which may impact initiation among current nonusers, requiring stricter marketing regulations. More research is needed to determine if anti-tobacco messaging tailored by peer crowds may effectively counteract targeted e-cigarette marketing.
E-cigarette advertisements often use psychographic targeting strategies, using lifestyles, attitudes, and values. Low-risk young adults (eg, those who currently do not use tobacco and nicotine products) are susceptible to psychographically targeted e-cigarette advertisements. This may result in the initiation of e-cigarette use among young adults who would otherwise be less likely to use tobacco and nicotine products. Stricter marketing regulations for emerging tobacco and nicotine products are required to reduce marketing exposure.