The elusive 'Reasonable Person' in healthcare advertising.
There is no definition of 'the person on the Clapham bus' for today's health consumer. The impact an advertisement will have on this reasonable person can be a major sticking point in advertising compliance but would a definition help?
Part 1, Section 6 (3) of the new Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code 2018 will include the following reference to this elusive person...https://www.tga.gov.au/consultation/consultation-proposed-therapeutic-goods-advertising-code-guidance
This Code is to be applied, in relation to a particular advertisement, by reference to its likely impact on a reasonable person to whom the advertisement is directed.
So who is this reasonable person? How much do they know and understand of their healthcare? And what are the advertiser's responsibilities to ensure compliance?
Advertisers know that the most effective interventions and campaigns are those that effectively target their audience. Health advertising is no exception. Where advertising is to be directed to a specific consumer group to gain the desired impact, there needs to be a better understanding of this mysterious, reasonable person to ensure materials are considered compliant.
In the TGA's recently released Consultation draft: Advertising to the public, the 'reasonable person' is identified. For the purposes of the application of the TGAC, a 'reasonable person' is a consumer who must always be considered as being more vulnerable than a prospective purchaser of ordinary consumer goods. It is the general standard of Australia's health literacy that impacts their ability to interpret certain information, and ill-health is known to adversely affect a consumers’ capacity to make rational decisions.
Once the target audience has been identified, advertisers (and regulators) can predict who the ‘reasonable person’ is in this particular audience. This person is one who buys therapeutic goods for themselves or family, can recognise and understand an advertised health claim, and uses this knowledge to take some responsibility for their own healthcare. Once this has been established, they gauge what that targetted person is likely to make of the advertisement and how they are likely to be impacted by its message.
This is the crux of Part 1; section 6(3) Impact on the reasonable person to whom the advertisement is directed
The 'reasonable consumer' is evolving and so can not be clearly defined. Australians are becoming more educated and involved in their health care. We are not all the person on that Clapham bus, so with the right approach, a targetted message can be both compliant and effective.