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Objective: To determine what young people think about the tobacco company Philip Morris and how it affects their evaluations of the company's new television advertising.
Design: Data were gathered in the context of a controlled experiment in which participants saw four Philip Morris ads about youth smoking prevention, four Philip Morris ads about charitable works, or four Anheuser-Busch ads about preventing underage drinking (the control group). Knowledge and opinion of Philip Morris were measured before ad exposure.
Setting: A California state university in the San Francisco Bay area.
Subjects: A convenience sample of undergraduates (n = 218) aged 18–25 years.
Main outcome measures: Advertising evaluation measured by 12 semantic differential scales.
Results: A little more than half of the students knew that Philip Morris is a tobacco company. Neither this knowledge nor students' smoking status was related to their opinion of the company. Philip Morris ads were rated less favourably by students who were aware that the sponsor is a tobacco company than by students who were unaware.
Conclusions: Advertisements designed to discredit the tobacco industry typically avoid references to specific companies. This study suggests that such counter-advertising would benefit from teaching audiences about the industry's corporate identities.