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Advertisements promoting human papillomavirus vaccine for adolescent boys: does source matter?
  1. Jessica K Pepper1,2,
  2. Paul L Reiter3,4,
  3. Annie-Laurie McRee1,
  4. Noel T Brewer1,2
  1. 1Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  2. 2Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  3. 3Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, College of Medicine, The Ohio State University, Ohio, USA
  4. 4Comprehensive Cancer Center, The Ohio State University, Ohio, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Noel T Brewer, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, 325 Rosenau Hall, CB 7440, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7440, USA; ntb1{at}


Objectives Many parents recall hearing of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine through drug company advertisements. This study sought to examine whether parents accurately recall the source (ie, sponsor) of advertisements promoting HPV vaccine and the impact of drug company advertisements.

Methods A US national sample of 544 parents of adolescent boys aged 11–17 participated in an online between-subjects experiment. Parents viewed an advertisement encouraging HPV vaccination for boys with a logo from a randomly assigned source. Parents rated trust, likability and motivation for vaccination while viewing the advertisement and later indicated who they believed sponsored it.

Results Nearly half (43%) of parents who viewed a hypothetical advertisement containing a logo incorrectly identified the advertisement source. More parents correctly identified the source of drug company advertisements than advertisement from other sources (62% vs 25%, OR 4.93, 95% CI 3.26 to 7.46). The majority of parents who saw a logo-free advertisement believed a drug company created it (60%). Among parents who correctly identified the advertisement source, drug company advertisements decreased motivation to vaccinate their sons, an association mediated by reduced liking of and trust in the advertisements.

Conclusions Parents were more accurate in identifying drug company advertisements, primarily because they tended to assume any advertisement was from a drug company. Public health organisations may need to take special measures to ensure their messages are not perceived as sponsored by drug companies.

  • Adolescent
  • advertisements
  • cervical neoplasia
  • drug company
  • HPV
  • HPV vaccine
  • male
  • public health
  • sexual health
  • social science
  • trust
  • vaccination
  • vaccination influenza

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  • Funding This study was supported in part by a research grant from the investigator-initiated studies program of Merck Sharp and Dohme Corp. The opinions expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of Merck Sharp and Dohme Corp. Additional support was provided by the American Cancer Society (MSRG-06-259-01-CPPB) and the Cancer Control Education Program at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center (R25 CA57726).

  • Competing interests A research grant to NTB and PLR from Merck Sharp and Dohme Corp funded the study. Merck Sharp and Dohme Corp played no role in the study design, planning, implementation, analysis, or reporting of the findings. NTB has also received grants and/or honoraria from GlaxoSmithKline and Merck Sharp and Dohme Corp. JKP, PLR, and A-LM have not received honoraria or consulting fees from these companies.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was granted by Institutional Review Board at the University of North Carolina.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.