Fast Disclaimers Affect Buyer Behavior

Thursday, June 30, 2011

PHILADELPHIA (June 30, 2011) – Though disclaimers at the end of advertisements may appear to be an accepted white noise by audiences, new research published in the Journal of Consumer Research suggests that those disclaimers have a greater impact on buyer behavior than previously thought. The study, coauthored by David Allan, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing at Saint Joseph’s University and peers at Northwestern and Wake Forest universities, finds that the speed at which the disclaimer is delivered can impact consumers’ purchase intention toward viewers’ trust in the untrusted (both trust unknown and untrusted) brands.

Quick, rambling statements at the close of commercial spots end most product advertisements heard on the radio or seen on television, whether the product featured is a food, pharmaceutical or consumer good. Most often a list of limits on special deals, terms and conditions, or the side effects of prescription drugs, disclaimers are there as a fast – sometimes very fast – summary of the important information buyers need before they make a purchase. But as necessary as the information is, marketers frequently restrict them to only four seconds of the typical ad’s 30.

For well-known, trusted brands, the speed of the disclaimer doesn’t have an impact, this study found. However, newer and unfamiliar brands without trust equity should be careful of their speed. The faster the disclaimer is recited, the more likely it is that consumers will view the brand as sneaky or untrustworthy, thereby affecting buyer behavior.

“Companies with new brands need to stop talking so fast and start listening to their consumers, not just their lawyers,” says Allan. “Mile-a-minute disclaimers at the end of ads for familiar cars may not affect buyer behavior, but they potentially can in unfamiliar food and pharmaceutical commercials without brand trust.”

The study, “On the Dangers of Pulling a Fast One: Advertisement Disclaimer Speed, Brand Trust and Purchase Intention,” has the potential to impact both advertising and policy making. It is available online and will appear in the February 2012 edition of the Journal of Consumer Research.

Media Contact

Carolyn Steigleman, Director of Communications for the Haub School of Business, 610-660-1355 or

Expand this section