Background: Public awareness-raising campaigns targeting alcohol use during pregnancy are an important part of preventing prenatal alcohol exposure and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Despite this, there is little evidence on what specific elements contribute to campaign message effectiveness. This research evaluated three different advertising concepts addressing alcohol and pregnancy: a threat appeal, a positive appeal promoting a self-efficacy message, and a concept that combined the two appeals. The primary aim was to determine the effectiveness of these concepts in increasing women's intentions to abstain from alcohol during pregnancy. Methods. Women of childbearing age and pregnant women residing in Perth, Western Australia participated in a computer-based questionnaire where they viewed either a control or one of the three experimental concepts. Following exposure, participants' intentions to abstain from and reduce alcohol intake during pregnancy were measured. Other measures assessed included perceived main message, message diagnostics, and potential to promote defensive responses or unintended consequences. Results: The concepts containing a threat appeal were significantly more effective at increasing women's intentions to abstain from alcohol during pregnancy than the self-efficacy message and the control. The concept that combined threat and self-efficacy is recommended for development as part of a mass-media campaign as it has good persuasive potential, provides a balance of positive and negative emotional responses, and is unlikely to result in defensive or unintended consequences. Conclusions: This study provides important insights into the components that enhance the persuasiveness and effectiveness of messages aimed at preventing prenatal alcohol exposure. The recommended concept has good potential for use in a future campaign aimed at promoting women's intentions to abstain from alcohol during pregnancy.
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