This paper discusses the research applied to the development of the Scottish Health Education Unit's publicity material, and outlines the two major problems incurred. The first is that, unlike much of product advertising, most health publicity is negative. Although benefits are projected, they are to be obtained by avoiding something negative, which is enjoyable, instead of achieving something positive in addition to what is already done. As a result, much health publicity induces anxiety, which in turn creates defensiveness. This defensiveness can be observed methodologically, for example in behaviour in a group discussion situation, as well as in response to content, as in the perceptual defensiveness shown by smokers to a highly negative, deeply threatening advertisement.
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