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Designing and Implementing an Effective Tobacco Counter-Marketing Campaign

Moderators have considerable opportunities to probe responses.

Focus groups provide richer data about the complexities of the audience’s thoughts and behaviors than surveys do.

Groups provide feedback from a number of individuals in a relatively short time.


Findings can’t be projected to the target audience as a whole.

Focus groups can be labor intensive and expensive, especially when they’re conducted in multiple locations.

Group responses don’t necessarily reflect individuals’ opinions, because some individuals might dominate the discussion, influence others’ opinions, or both. In addition, the facilitator might not be able to get everyone’s reactions to every question.

  • Each person is limited to about 10 to 15 minutes of talk time.

  • The moderator might ask leading questions of the group or might neglect to probe for critical insights.

Individual In-Depth Interviews

The process, uses, benefits, and drawbacks of individual in-depth interviews are similar to those of focus groups, except that the interviewer speaks with one person at a time. In-person interviews can take place at a central facility or at the participant’s home or place of business. As with focus groups, when individual interviews can’t be conducted in person, they can be conducted by phone or computer. Although the interviews take more total time, responses usually are less biased, because each participant is interviewed alone and isn’t influenced by others’ responses.

Insights From Focus Groups

In a series of 24 focus groups conducted in four U.S. cities by CDC and three state tobacco control programs, youth were exposed to 10 antitobacco ads developed for youth audiences.

Participants were asked to rate the ads on the basis of how likely the ads were to make them “stop and think about not using tobacco.” The four ads consistently rated highest had a strong message about the negative health consequences of tobacco. Three of the four ads used real stories in a testimonial format to share the risks of using tobacco.

An important insight gleaned from the research was that youth seemed to be more affected by the thought of living with the negative consequences of tobacco use than dying from them (Teenage Research Unlimited 1999).

Chapter 3: Gaining and Using Target Audience Insights


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