In our target article (Biegler and Vargas 2013) we highlighted the persuasive potency of what we term “nonpropositional” content in Direct to Consumer Advertising of Prescription Pharmaceuticals (DTCA). By nonpropositional we refer to content that does not comprise an explicit drug claim, for example, imagery, music, voiceover tone, and logos. We showed how evaluative conditioning in DTCA can induce positive attitudes, and beliefs toward a drug by repeatedly pairing it with positive valence images. Yet, we noted that regulators such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) subject nonpropositional content to much lesser scrutiny than its explicit, or propositional counterpart (Food and Drug Administration 2009a). We argued this to be morally problematic because positive beliefs about pharmaceuticals can, plausibly, be induced through exposure to positive images–a sunset, for example–that bear no substantive relationship to the drug or its properties.

Biegler P, Vargas P. Response to open peer commentaries on: Ban the sunset? Non-propositional content and regulation of pharmaceutical advertising. American Journal of Bioethics 2013; 13 (5): W1-W5