Direct-to-consumer advertisements and their effects on the audience

Direct-to-consumer advertising can be seen everywhere. From TV commercials to magazine spreads, ads illustrating the use of prescription drugs are persuading audiences to ask doctors about certain medications.

A video by Vox explained the evolution of direct-to-consumer advertising and the impact it has on American society. The FDA also demonstrates the impact of direct-to-consumer advertising in a 2015 article.

In the 1990s, drug manufacturers started targeting consumers with advertisements instead of relying only on doctors to relay information on medications. When these ads were introduced on TV, they were vague and offered little information as to what the drug did to help or what health issue they were meant to aid.

Once the government stepped in, direct-to-consumer ads on TV were more helpful by describing the benefits as well as some major risks and then directing the audience to a place with more information about the drug.

The effects of these ads have both positives and negatives. On the one hand, consumers are more knowledgeable about their options and can discuss these drugs with their doctor. However, this also causes doctors to feel a greater pressure to prescribe patients drugs that they may not need due to the patient naming a specific drug.

This ad for Humira shows how this medication may be beneficial by illustrating someone in a positive way, but it does not educate about possible risks. Photo via

Is this what Richard Pollay warned us about?

Prescription drug ads demonstrate the four main advertising effects that Pollay discusses in his 1986 article.

  1. Pervasive: Direct-to-consumer ads are everywhere. We see them at stores, the internet, magazines and our TV screens. It is more than likely that we will see a prescription drug ad while watching a show on cable or on an ad-supported streaming platform. We also see them while on social media or other websites.
  2. Repetitive: These ads are consistent in saying that certain drugs can be used to help relieve or cure symptoms of different illnesses. Each ad tells the audience the risks and benefits associated with the medication and to ask a doctor about prescribing the treatment.
  3. Professionally developed: A lot of research goes into making direct-to-consumer ads and how to best reach the target audience. These companies know how to grasp the attention of consumers and keep their attention to get them to ask about the drug to their doctor.
  4. Delivered to a detached audience: Consumers are becoming more reliant on advertisements for information as we spend more time watching TV or reading online. We no longer make decisions solely based on advice from friends and family. This makes the audience vulnerable to the suggestion of these advertisements.

Pollay also warned us about the possible manipulative qualities of ads, and direct-to-consumer advertisements prove this. TV commercials depicting the use of prescription drugs in a positive way could manipulate people into thinking that there are more benefits than risks associated with taking a medication. This can also cause consumers to believe they need a drug that they don’t.

Direct-to-consumer advertising has its pros and cons, and it is important that the consumer recognizes both before recommending a prescription for a drug they saw on a TV commercial to their doctor.


Pollay, R. (1986). The Distorted Mirror: Reflections on the Unintended Consequences of Advertising. Journal of Marketing, 50(2), 18-36. doi:10.2307/1251597

Classical liberalism and its relationship to TikTok

What do TikTok influencers and classical liberalism have in common? The idea that individuals will act in their own self-interest is one possible answer.

Classical liberalism

There are four main ideas that can be used to explain classical liberalism: egoism, intellectualism, quietism, and atomism (Rotzoll, Haefner, & Hall, 1990). Each idea describes the nature of individuals and society.

According to the previously cited article, egoism assumes individuals act in their own self-interest, and quietism adds that our self-seeking nature makes it so that we are disinterested if there is a lack of a reward. The idea of atomism states that society is a mere aggregation of individuals, so institutions are unable to manipulate individuals. Additionally, intellectualism assumes that individuals are rational and make deliberate and calculated decisions.

TikTok as influencing platform

The COVID-19 pandemic caused everything to stop, so marketers had to rethink how to sell their brands amidst a global crisis. Many companies used TikTok campaigns to gain attention from its users including e.l.f. and Procter & Gamble (Neff, 2020).

Videos like these became a way for brands to engage with their audience while also promoting healthy habits. They were less about selling products and more about having fun during a difficult time.

How the two ideas connect

Since egoism states that people are motivated by self-interest, they will watch the TikTok videos they enjoy and be exposed to these brands. Some verified TikTok artists are featured in these videos, which means that many individuals are interested in what brands they are promoting.

The cosmetic brand e.l.f started its “eyes, lips, face, safe” campaign to promote hand washing and social distancing. Those that were interested in viewing these videos were also reminded of the what the brand’s initials stand for.


Y’all better lather up 🧼 Keep your eyes, lips, face safe! 👀👄🤩 #eyeslipsface #elfyeah @illwayno @hollafyesixwun

♬ Eyes. Lips. Face. Safe. e.l.f. Cosmetics – elfyeah

Even though a message that came out of the pandemic was to be respectful of others and stay home, the idea of egoism assumes that the act of compassion is motivated by one’s self-interest.

Procter & Gamble started #distancedance on TikTok as a way to promote their donation campaign to Feeding American and Matthew 25. By including this information, they engaged individuals interested in helping and asking them to make their own video to spread awareness. Anyone who did not have an interest in these charities were not likely to participate.


Stay home & do the distancedance. Tag me & the hashtag in your video. P&G will donate to Feeding America & Matthew 25 for first 3M videos #PGPartner

♬ Big Up’s (feat. Yung Nnelg) – Jordyn, Nic Da Kid

Self-interest is the guiding principle of our choices, so when brands align themselves with healthy habits during a pandemic — washing your hands and social distancing — people may become more interested in what that company is selling.

Someone who likes fun songs to remind themselves to wash their hands may be more inclined to buy e.l.f. products, and those that like it when big companies donate to charitable organizations will be more likely to purchase P&G brands.

TikTok is used as a source of entertainment and as a way for influencers to promote certain brands. The individual is motivated by their own self-interest in the platform, influencers, or brands to engage with the content. This helps prove that the principle of egoism has a strong relationship with the use of TikTok influencers.

Works cited:

Neff, J. (2020). How Brands are Staying ‘Influential’ During the Pandemic.

Rotzoll, K.B., Haefener, J.E., & Hall, S.R. (1990). Advertising and Classical Liberalism. In K.B. Rotzoll, J.E. Haefener, & S.R. Hall (Eds.), Advertising in Contemporary Society (pp. 13-29). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Crayola campaign analysis, PR Writing course in review

Crayola’s “Colors of the World”

Screenshot taken from

The “Colors of the World” campaign by Crayola started in May 2020, and the company has continued to promote the 24 shades since the launch.

Crayola retweeted this post along with many others to display a sufficient amount of curated content.

Crayola has used social media effectively by retweeting customer posts on Twitter, establishing a relationship with product users through curated content. The hashtag #TrueSelfie was also utilized on Instagram and Facebook. This shared media helps create a community around the product and illustrates an effective mutually beneficial relationship.

The company also includes videos on YouTube, making for a clear presence of created content. One suggests a fun activity for kids to do and another demonstrates the thought that went into creating the different shades for the crayons, colored pencils and markers.

This strategy aligns with Crayola’s target audience, which includes parents and elementary school educators. A social media hashtag provides a place for parents and teachers of young children to bounce ideas off of each other and create something special for the kids. The videos also provide ideas and knowledge of the initiative.

Crayola took advantage of controlled media to launch the “Colors of the World” campaign with a press release announcing the new diverse crayons. In turn, the owned media provided the opportunity for earned media with PR Newswire sharing the press release and additional uncontrolled media included news articles like the one in USA Today.

The company uses clever designs by including crayon texture in all of its promotional material. Within the designs, the colors are consistently the focus, making the use of sequence effective and unified.

Personal improvement and my portfolio

While in this class, I have strengthened my lead writing ability by needing to keep it concise. Additionally, through the press release assignment, I further developed my knowledge of the inverted pyramid and gained a new appreciation for media advisories.

I also had the opportunity to work on my feature writing techniques through the communications department faculty member profile assignment.

Before the week focusing on design, I never gave much thought to what went into a PR campaign’s look. Now, I understand the basic principles and can apply them to future campaigns I may encounter.

Throughout this course, I have completed tasks that I can add to my portfolio such as the press release on the communications department COM Connect event series and the faculty profile.

There are also skills that I can add to my resume such as press release writing and managing a social media account. I may also add my work from the social media account to my blog website and include the link on my resume.

Overall, I am proud of the work I have displayed in this class, and I am ready to discuss what I accomplished if any interviewer may ask why I included this class as a “relevant course” on my resume.

COVID-19 posters from CDC can be improved

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided Guidance and Planning documents for colleges and universities with information on how to open their institutions.

These documents are very detailed in nature and cover areas from administrative guidance and considerations to living in shared housing and suggested cleaning. However, the posters created to visualize this information lacks specific and detailed information.

It seems as though the posters are targeted more to the general public than colleges and universities. There are not any suggestions directed to college students specifically, and they don’t really offer anything new.

Many of the posters by the CDC offer the same information that can be found everywhere such as washing your hands, wearing a mask and staying 6 feet apart from others. Some of the designs are also a little busy, making it hard to determine what information is the most important.

Personally, my eyes are directed toward some of the images. This might make it so people lose the details from the written words.

Design principles can be applied to the following two posters from the CDC:

Balance: Although both posters stick to a few fonts, balance is not a strength in these designs. In the second poster, many different colors are used. This might add some personality to the overall look, but it is also distracting from the message. The first post attempts to do a better job with balance by sticking to shades of blue and gold; however, the blues aren’t in the same family, giving it an awkward look.

Sequence: These posters place emphasis on the images by using a variety of colors. Additionally, they do a good job of putting the main element at the top of page to demonstrate the importance with the messages “Wear a Mask to Protect You and Your Friends” and “Help Protect Yourself and Others from COVID-19.”

Unity: Both posters do a great job with this principle. They stick to one or two fonts and use similar illustrations.

Grids: You can tell the designers used a grid layout to keep the designs clean and even in both posters.

Alignment: It looks like the text is centered in the first poster under the illustrations, but the other text is flush left.

Type: The text is bold when it needs to be, like when it is serving as headlines, and it is regular when it serves as a caption. Both posters stay consistent in the type of font used.

Starbucks and its brand persona: professional and fun

With a Starbucks on nearly every corner, it’s hard to not notice the brand wherever you go. It could also be difficult to resist the temptation of a warm mocha or smooth cold brew.

Although we are all familiar with Starbucks, we may not pay attention to the company’s persona on its corporate blog and Twitter.

The Stories and News page of the Starbucks blog presents a professional persona by sharing stories of people, partnerships and other actions. Each post also includes photos, videos and embedded links to support the message.

Through posting about important initiatives, the company is letting its target audience know what it supports and how its making a difference. When consumers read these posts, they may view Starbucks in a positive light and be more likely to choose it over a different coffee brand.

Additionally, sharing these updates may improve the mutually beneficial relationship between Starbucks and its customers by keeping up to date on the latest causes important to society.

On the other hand, the Starbucks corporate Twitter has a more friendly and playful persona. There are several jokes about drinking cold brew during the winter months and fun, appealing graphics.

This platform also engages with followers by asking them questions and retweeting positive customer experiences. 

The Starbucks Twitter is more entertaining while also persuading people to buy its drinks, and the corporate blog is more of an outlet to inform readers of news from the company.

Both created and curated content are utilized on the Twitter account. The created content includes original graphics depicting certain beverages, and these images give a positive first impression of the brand.

As previously mentioned, the Twitter account also retweets customer experiences, which contributes to its curated content and gives potential customers a better understanding of the company through first-hand reviews and stories.

The PESO model applied to Zion Coffee Co.

Any successful business needs to make people aware of its existence through clever use of media, and Zion, a coffee shop in Peoria, Illinois, does this through its presence on several platforms.

Photo of Zion Coffee Bar in Downtown Peoria via @zioncoffeeco on Instagram.

The PESO model is a strategy companies can use to engage with their audience. This model combines the use of paid, earned, shared and owned media for a business to establish a brand and communicate with the public.

Here is how Zion has utilized the PESO model:

Paid media: Crossroads United Methodist Church has a partnership with Zion and posted about it on Feb. 8, 2020, with Zion’s slogan #theothersideofthecup.

Earned media: Several local news organizations have published articles about the company’s endeavors, including supporting the global economy and, more recently, the announcement to cancel expansion plans.

Shared media: Zion has a great social media presence on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, with each platform demonstrating a consistent message. 

A Jan. 22, 2021 Instagram post with one of the owners, Mike Hatfield, via @zioncoffeeco.

Instagram specifically depicts the company’s modern aesthetic, shares updates on the business and includes humorous posts with #fridaycaptionsbymike. The owners engage more with followers and the community through posts, stories and highlights than on some of their other platforms. 

Zion’s Instagram shows that the owners are more than just business people, as it illustrates a fun space for people to engage with them while also learning more about the company and what it offers. 

Owned media: Zion mainly has its website where the owners share their story, business model and links to a documentary and store for merchandise. 

Through looking at Zion’s website and various social media platforms, it is evident that the owners of the company know how to reach their audience and build a brand.

Ben and Jerry’s team-up with Colin Kaepernick is authentic PR

Ben and Jerry’s is not a company to shy away from caring about issues that affect the world. The popular ice cream brand has written statements of action for many issues such as racial justice, criminal justice, climate change, LGBT equality and GMO labeling legislation.

On Dec. 10, 2020, Ben and Jerry’s announced its partnership with Colin Kaepernick and his organization called Know Your Rights Camp.

“Ready to Change the World” campaign via Ben and Jerry’s official YouTube.

Kaepernick’s organization has the mission of advancing the liberation and well-being of Black and Brown communities. Ben and Jerry’s has also issued a statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

With these actions, the company has engaged with social issues and stayed consistent with the platforms it establishes.

By teaming up with Kaepernick with his own flavor, “Change the Whirled,” the company is demonstrating its commitment to bring awareness to criminal and racial justice.

The partnership with Kaepernick and the list of social issues that Ben and Jerry’s care about most likely has a significant impact on the mutually beneficial relationship the company has with its audience.People that have the same values Ben and Jerry’s discuss on its “Issues We Care About” page will view the company as doing good in the world and may choose this brand over another when browsing the ice cream aisle of the grocery store. In turn, the company will see more of a profit and bring more awareness to larger issues.

Digital journalism: Now and into the future

Everything is digital now, including the news. Photo by Negative Space on

The future of digital journalism is a tricky subject because there is a lot changing in this world and journalism has been going through a big transition in how the industry utilizes various platforms.

There is a range in content and products news organizations put out there for people. Some content is free, but there is also a reliance on paid subscriptions which include incentives for the consumer to pay.

Journalism is about more than just cut-and-dried current event coverage and stating the mere facts. Some organizations go beyond the hard news concept and moved to in-depth explainers and solutions journalism. These stories take a different approach, so the public can understand more than just surface-level information.

We will continue to see a move toward multi-platform journalism and reporters going beyond just the facts. 

More than just a newspaper

In the age of information, news organizations are offering a variety of products to disseminate the news. Information can be found everywhere online instead of just the print newspaper that is nearing obsolete status. 

Engaging with the news is different than it was before. There are fewer and fewer people going to their doorstep for a print newspaper and most people are checking the latest headlines on their phones or computers. 

With the limitless web, anyone can share news and appear to be a journalist. Also, news organizations have possibilities to find new ways to reach different audiences that they couldn’t with a traditional newspaper or even just a website. 

The move to audio storytelling

Podcasts allow audiences a different way of consuming news that is more relational than the written word. Hearing reporters and sources tell you the story in their own voices can be more engaging than words on the page (more likely to be a screen). 

This just might be the era of podcasting, as news organizations are jumping on the platform and daily news podcasts, inspired by The Daily, were starting to become popular last year and will continue to increase listeners.

Spotify and Apple Podcasts make it easy for anyone to post and listen to podcast shows ranging from the daily news and deep dives to features and entertainment. 

These platforms aren’t going away anytime soon, so it is safe to say that news podcasts have a bright future. They make the public feel more connected with the reporters and have the potential to be more authentic than just a written story.

Get the news in your inbox

News organizations also offer emailed newsletters for even easier access to the top stories of the day. Most newsletters are free, but some companies also have special offerings for their paid subscribers. 

Some newsletters are briefings of the day’s biggest news or they highlight a feature story. In response to the amount of information regarding the pandemic, The New York Times and other news organizations created a daily newsletter specific to coronavirus coverage. 

Consider a newsletter a free sample of what a news organization has to offer. If readers engage with what they read in the newsletter, then they may be more likely to visit the website and pay for a subscription. If the numbers follow this logic, then daily or weekly newsletters can become a vital product for news organizations to gain more subscribers. 

The rise in social media usage among organizations and individual journalists

As more people receive their news from social media, it makes sense that news organizations share their stories on these platforms. When credible news outlets share information on social media, it also has the potential to provide clarity on any misinformation that appears on users’ feeds.

Social media is the future for global dissemination (if it isn’t already) and it also gives a platform for individual journalists to make their mark. They have the potential to become modern-day influencers when it comes to what stories are being shared. 

Some organizations are even hiring social media editors to increase audience engagement. These positions might become more present and valuable in the age of digital journalism and when younger people start to engage more with the news. 

It is also easy to see how many people engage with a story on social media, so tools like Twitter Analytics will continue to be helpful in understanding what stories get the most attraction.

News outlets want to be as present as possible on multiple platforms. That even includes TikTok to reach a different audience and find a more creative way of sharing content. 

There is more to journalism than just the facts

Journalists are getting more creative in how they present their stories to the public. In a time when anyone can be a journalist, it is the era of going beyond the ordinary and seeing what can capture the audience. 

Although not new, these two forms of journalism have the potential to sit alongside investigative journalism in terms of reader engagement. 

Solutions journalism

Solutions journalism describes the responses taken to address problems. It dives deeper than the typical hard news story and can have an impact on the way people learn and talk about social problems.

Schools and news organizations have partnered with the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN), which helps journalists receive training on how to focus on the responses to problems. The goal of this organization is to bring solutions journalism to newsrooms around the world. 

News organizations like The Washington Post, The Atlantic and BBC have partnered with SJN along with 175 other organizations, 17 schools and nine communities. 

If more people are aware of what solutions journalism is, then it can make a real impact on the content we see, but if people don’t know what it is, then they can’t ask for it.

In a time of such uncertainty and many problems to face, we may need solutions journalism more than ever. It is important to know what the problem is, but sometimes an even better story is how people are responding in trying to find a solution. 

Solutions journalism may have the power to make a great impact on how journalists approach their stories and what other angles might be out there to discover.

If more news organizations promote solutions journalism and partner with SJN, then it has the potential to attract a vast audience. 

Explanatory journalism

With the rise of digital journalism, explanatory journalism became more popular, but it has been around for a while. Ezra Klein from Vox believes that the public does not need facts, they need explanations

In the information age, you can get “facts” from anywhere and everywhere, but it is another thing to be able to understand the facts and realize the implications the information might have. 

Explanatory journalism does more than just present the facts. It goes in-depth and provides any needed clarification while going beyond the straight facts. This means explainers also interpret the facts and present an argument on what it all means. Therefore, the pieces might read biased, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

Especially today, explanatory journalism can thrive. Some might say it is entering its “golden age” because of the pandemic. If they’re right, we might see more news outlets publish forms of explanatory journalism now and, if well-received, continue after things appear to be “normal.”

With the amount of information out on the web now, there is much to explain. 

College goes on: Student organization copes with working remotely

Even though we are no longer on campus, student organizations have found ways to adapt and stay connected during these uncertain times. 

Haley Johnson and Anthony Landahl work for The Scout, and the student media organization has not stopped because the campus is closed. 

Editing articles used to be done entirely in the office by making suggestions on a printed out story. During this time, however, The Scout moved the editing process to Google Drive. 

“In a way, the editing process was a little bit more efficient,” Johnson, editor-in-chief, said. “It’s actually a little quicker to edit and maybe that could be beneficial for the future. It definitely pushed our technologically savvy limits.”

The way The Scout reports on certain subjects has also changed because the reporters can’t just walk around campus to grab quotes from students and faculty. Johnson advised her news staff to utilize social media for student reactions and many interviews were handled over email or the phone, which was a slower process at times. 

Landahl, the news editor, said the entire organization had to be restructured and people’s roles had to be adjusted to adapt to the remote environment.

“We are an organization that relies heavily on an office to work in,” Landahl said. “Our offices have now just become our computers.”

Without the physical product of the newspaper, The Scout had to rely on its online products such as the emailed newsletter, social media accounts and the website to get the news out.

“We got the content out and that’s what I’m happy about,” Landahl said. “Overall, I think for what was going on and the situation we were given, I think we did the best we could … We kept up our standard of journalistic excellence.”

Many students are experiencing a challenge when it comes to the motivation of doing work and student organizations are not immune to this feeling. 

“You know the work is there and you just kind of put it off,” Landahl said. “The work, I guess, isn’t as fun as it would be in person. In person, you kind of have a place to go to and people to see and if you’re motivated to get work done, you’ll get it done.”

A screenshot of Haley Johnson during our interview on Zoom.

Johnson is also the public relations chair in Sigma Kappa and said sorority life has entirely paused due to the pandemic.

“I would say my job has become more important than it ever has because a lot of communication is happening virtually,” Johnson said. “I feel more of a responsibility to boost that morale that we have.”

In order to do that, she has been posting more and sending out a weekly inspirational newsletter with positive news, quotes and suggested hobbies.

Johnson also commended other student organizations like ACBU, who have been hosting virtual events instead of giving up on the semester.

“I think student organizations have been really stepping up,” Johnson said. “They’re doing a lot for what seems like an impossible situation … I think the fact that we’ve adapted really shows strength.”

Here is my first-person of my life during the pandemic. Music:

Positive news is a solution to the state of our minds

Photo by Jonathan Robles on

In times like these, it is easy to be caught up in the stress and negativity of the world. Some are pointing fingers at who is to blame for the current frown on our face instead of coming together and find something worth smiling about.

Although the statistics and the advice from experts might be necessary to stay educated about the state of the world, there are good things happening all around us.

Essential workers are out on the frontlines doing amazing things and average people are doing the extraordinary and lending a helping hand. Even in the midst of awful and lonely times, people are finding creative ways to stay connected with friends and family.

These feel-good stories are welcomed on social media and perhaps as important as briefings describing the spread of the virus.

Solutions journalism and positive news story can come together to give people what they want and need: answers and inspiration/hope.

People want to find happiness amidst the hardship, positive news can go a long way. It is also a welcomed break from what seems like the Nothing in The NeverEnding Story.

News organizations have an obligation to spread the news, so features on positive experiences is a great way to keep sharing what is going on in the world, while not continuing to inundate readers with the negativity the pandemic has caused. It is also important in painting the whole picture of what is going on.

Another form of news can come in the form of solutions journalism, which describes the responses taken to address problems. It dives deeper than the typical hard news story and can have an impact on the way people learn and talk about social problems. has a page devoted to pieces about responses to the pandemic. Some are positive and others further explain issues that have emerged because of COVID-19.

All news organizations can include positive news stories and dive into solutions journalism to give people a more well-rounded platform to consume the news. Even though the state of the world has seen better days, it is still turning and positivity can prevail if we spread the good. 

Create your website with
Get started