Health Communication

Unconscious Awareness of a Branded Life: Consumer Disillusionment and the Cultivated Commercialization of Public Health

Student Researcher: Laura Crosswell

Faculty Supervisor: Lance Porter

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Crosswalk, L . (2014). Unconscious Awareness of a Branded Life: Consumer Disillusionment and the Cultivated Commercialization of Public Health

Abstract:

By unraveling the intricately powerful influences of pharmaceutical funding, this project examines ways in which product marketing infiltrates and contaminates public awareness efforts in the healthcare industry. Specifically, the following work deconstructs ways in which Merck Pharmaceuticals & Co. crafted a product endorsement through social marketing and nationwide lobbying efforts to most efficiently profit from the company’s Gardasil vaccination.

Through means of textual analysis, interviews, focus groups, and eyetracking experimentation, I use Merck’s product endorsement efforts to illuminate the complex dynamics muddling direct-to-consumer marketing and social marketing campaigns. Social cognitive theory (SCT) offers a strong supportive foundation from which to dissect viewer healthcare message processing. In conjunction with the behaviorally-oriented cannons of SCT, social trust theory and contemporary marketing scholarship further highlight the complicated ties uniting public policy, corporatized health-marketing operations, audience cognitions, and consumer behavior.

By piecing together the various ways in which Merck Pharmaceuticals puppeteered public understanding of HPV and cervical cancer, this work encourages greater awareness for the corporate influence and political agendas that work hand in hand in delivering meaning to American reality. Results indicate viewer awareness of brand markings in Merck’s HPV social marketing campaign limit message effectiveness and negatively influence consumer trust. As such, my grounded analysis conceptualizes “unconscious awareness” as it relates to branded health communication. Emergent findings showcase broader societal implications by unveiling patterns of conditioned ambivalence toward commercialized messaging.

This project speaks to the capitalized communications contaminating consumer trust and public health, and presents an argument for regulation realignment in the healthcare industry. Given the sensitive nature of public health message processing, and in light of the findings collected throughout this work, my multi-layered analysis petitions for regulatory guidelines which separately address and more clearly define executional protocols for social awareness efforts and direct-to-consumer marketing operations.

Correcting the Conversation: An Argument for a Public Health Perspective Approach to University Timely Warnings about Sexual Assault

Student Researcher: Ashley Hesson

Faculty Supervisor: Jensen Moore

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Hesson, A. (2014). Correcting the conversation: An argument for a public health perspective approach to university timely warnings about sexual assault

Abstract:

Reports of sexual violence should be written from a public health perspective approach to appropriately frame the occurrence and encourage accurate understandings of sexual assault as a larger societal issue. This research consists of two studies to investigate the way universities do (and should) communicate about sexual violence with their students. For Study 1, interviews were conducted with a random sample of public state Universities regarding their emergency alert processes and template usage to determine current emergency communication practices. The majority of universities contacted do not have a template or best practice guidelines in place for creating timely warnings. For Study 2, an experimental test asked participants to read a hypothetical university timely warning message about a sexual assault on campus and take a post-test survey about their perceptions of sexual assault and personal estimation of threat. The experiment tested whether the inclusion of contextualizing statistics and information in the message changed their reported perceptions of rape overall. Results from the study show that a combination approach incorporating both statistics and personal safety strategies had the greatest influence on both threat perception and reported preventative behaviors. This research has significant public policy implications for best practices concerning institutional communication about sexual assault.

General Opinions From Women About Contraceptive Use

Student Researcher: Elizabeth Garcia, Sean-Patrick King, Joyce Singler, Gabby Schick

Faculty Supervisor: Meghan Sanders

For a Complete Report of this Research, See:   Garcia, E., King, S., Singler, J., & Schick, G. (2012). General Opinions From Women About Contraceptive Use.

Abstract: The purpose of this research was to gain an overall opinion of contraception use among college-aged women.  By utilizing a mass survey among female college-aged students who use contraceptives; planning, directing, and executing two focus groups; reviewing multiple other studies in order to gain a general view of past research on our specific topic; and analyzing our own survey, our team was able to gain an overall consensus of contraceptive use among our target population.

The secondary research results showed that women of all ages use contraception but young women, unmarried women, and women without children cited more reasons than others for using contraceptives. While the majority of Americans support sex education, studies found that the impact of sex education in youth’s sexual tendencies is quite weak. Those who received formal sex education before sex resulted in a greater use of contraception.

Two focus groups were conducted to acquire general opinions from college-aged women about contraceptives and contraceptive use. During the perceptual mapping activity, it was clear that many of the participants in both groups were unknowledgeable on the different contraceptive types and many were misinformed. The conclusions reached in both focus groups also differed. The first focus group’s participants were more open about their use of birth control and contraceptives. The second focus group concluded that as a whole they preferred to not use hormonal birth control of any type because of the sometimes serious side-effects. In terms of sex education, both groups agreed that some sort of sex education should be a part of the curriculum, but argued their points for why it should be the parent’s responsibility, strictly an educational experience, or a mixture of both. The groups also agreed that there is no stigma on women who use birth control, for any reason.

The Doctor, The Baker, and The Medicine Maker

Student Researcher: Laura Crosswell (PhD)

Faculty Supervisor: Lance Porter (Associate Professor)

For a Complete Report of this Research, See:   Crosswell, L. (2012). The Doctor, The Baker, and The Medicine Maker. This manuscript is based on a dissertation project.

Abstract: Aiming to reveal the potential impact of pharmaceutical branding on consumer healthcare communications, this study introduces a physiological component to brand awareness research. Janiszewski and Bickart (1994) argue that while message attendance is a critical variable in advertising effectiveness and a “tremendous amount of money [is] spent on buying consumer attention, little to no research is done on attention” (p. 329).  Resonating this notion, other scholars have recognized that, “while studies in other areas have made direct links between eye-tracking measures and cognitive processing, there has been very limited reporting of such information in either advertising or consumer behavior measures” (Krugman, et al., 1994,p.42). This investigation addresses the research deficit by comparingmicro-level behaviors with self-reported measurements of brandawareness.

Using eye-tracking technology, as well as pre and post-test questionnaires, the following work introduces physiological indicators of message involvement to more clearly determine ways in which sponsorship recognition shapes viewer attitudes toward the Gardasil vaccination.

Understanding the Effectiveness of Ecolabels: Exploring Message Formats, Context-Induced Moods, and Issue-Relevant Determinants

Faculty Researcher: Yongick Jeong

Student Researcher: Young Kim

For a Complete Report of this Research, See:   Jeong, Y., & Kim, Y (2012). Understanding the Effectiveness of Ecolabels: Exploring Message Formats, Context-Induced Moods, and Issue-Relevant Determinants. This paper was presented at the annual conference of the Association of Education Journalism and Mass Communication, Washington D.C. 2013.

Abstract: This study examines how young adults process ecolabels (environmental warning labels) for three environmental products/conditions by determining the effectiveness of warnings in different message formats (ad and public service announcement, PSA) across different context-induced moods (positive and negative) as well as the impacts of various issue-relevant factors. The findings indicate that the evaluations of ecolabels are significantly influenced by various determinants, and these factors showed different patterns of influences for each product category.

Read Responsibly: The Processing of Warning Messages by Young Adults in Differing Message Conditions

Faculty Researcher: Yongick Jeong

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Jeong, Y. (2012). Read Responsibly: The Processing of Warning Messages by Young Adults in Differing Message Conditions.

Abstract: This study investigated the composite impact of warning labels in various conditions. Two experiments, via a two-way mixed-repeated design, were conducted and found that warning labels perform differently based on message format (advertisements vs. public service announcements, PSAs), message mood structure (positive vs. negative) and different product category (drinking, smoking, and texting). The overall findings suggest that warning labels were more memorable in ads. However, participants evaluated warning labels in PSAs, particularly in negative mood-inducing PSAs, more favorably than those in ads. Interestingly, warning labels are not associated with intention of behavioral changes. Interaction effects were also examined and practical implications are discussed.

Determinants of Warning Label Effectiveness: The Interplay Among Message Formats, Context-Induced Moods, and Personal Interests

Faculty Researcher: Yongick Jeong

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Jeong, Y. (2012). Determinants of Warning Label Effectiveness: The Interplay Among Message Formats, Context-Induced Moods, and Personal Interests. This Paper was presented at the annual conference of International Communication Association.

Abstract: Because of the potentially harmful results associated with misuse/overuse of certain products, some products are mandated to include warning information about product usage in their advertisements. This study examined how young adults process warning labels in three product categories (drinking, smoking, and texting) by determining the effectiveness of warnings in different message formats (ads and public service announcements, PSAs) across different context-induced moods (positive and negative). This study also explored how various personal determinants influence the success of warning labels for different health/safety products. This study found warning labels placed within ads were more effective in two memory-based measures (recall and recognition) while those in PSAs were more effective in attitude (toward message containing warnings) and behavior (intention for behavioral change) measures. This study also observed that warning label performance is influenced by various determinants including context-induced moods, and these factors showed different patterns of influences for each product category.

An Investigation into the Moderating Role of Fear Appeals on the Relationship between Regulatory Fit and Persuasion

Student Researcher: Nam Kim (PhD)

Faculty Supervisor: Meghan Sanders and Margaret DeFleur

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Kim, N. (2011). An Investigation into the Moderating Role of Fear Appeals on the Relationship between Regulatory Fit and Persuasion.

Abstract: As one of the ways to persuade young people effectively, several scholars have indicated that using a tailored message that is consistent with individuals’ concerns and interests can influence their attitude and behavioral changes. Among diverse tactics to construct tailored health-messages, this research especially paid attention to individuals’ motivational goals (i.e., regulatory focus) that make them more inclined to a certain outcome. While promotion-oriented individuals primarily focus on how to achieve a desired ending, prevention-oriented individuals mainly focus on avoiding undesirable outcomes (Higgins, 1997; Higgins et al., 2001). Although numerous studies support the positive effects of the congruency between regulatory focus and message frame on persuasion, the researcher was concerned with the limited discussion about the effects of some message attributes (i.e., fear appeals) in tailored health-related Public Service Announcements (PSAs). In particular, a large number of health campaigns provide information in the context of highly emotive graphic images and text; however, the stimulus used in previous studies did not consider such factors’ possible moderating effects.

In the context of an anti-binge drinking health campaign, the researcher therefore focused on how the level of fear in tailored messages influences college students’ perceptions of the message, their message processing, and their attitudes and behavioral changes. Using a 2 (regulatory focus: promotion vs. prevention) X 2 (message framing: gain vs. loss) X 2 (level of fear appeals: low vs. high) experimental design, the researcher found that messages that are consistent with individuals’ interests are more persuasive. When the tailored message contained a low fear appeal, more fluent message processing and greater perceptions of message relevance occurred, which in turn impacted persuasion. However, the findings indicate that message effectiveness should be discussed cautiously because the effectiveness of tailored messages is reduced when combined with a high fear appeal. Overall, this study advances our understanding of how a tailored message’s attributes influence individuals’ message processing and persuasion. The findings have practical and theoretical implications for future studies on the use of emotional appeals in persuasive advertising.

Health Communication in Men‘s and Women‘s Health and Lifestyle Magazines:A Content Analysis

Student Researcher: Juliette Highland, Newly Paul, Stephanie Roussell, and Shannon Snell

Faculty Supervisor: Meghan Sanders

For a Complete Report of this Research, See:   Highland, J., Paul, N., Roussell, S., and Snell, S. (2011). Health Communication in Men‘s and Women‘s Health and Lifestyle Magazines:A Content Analysis. This paper was based on a project as part of “the Introduction to Research Method in Mass Communication” graduate course .

Abstract: This study analyzes how differently men‘s and women‘s health and lifestyle magazines present health information. We conducted a content analysis of all available health-related articles (391) from the 2010 issues of Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Men’s Health, and Self to see how health coverage differs (1) for men and women, and (2) between magazine type (health versus lifestyle). To examine any relationships among categories, we examined magazines according to the targeted readership‘s gender and magazine type as independent variables, and their influence on four dependent variables: approach, prominence, type of source and visual appeal.

This study appears to be unique in its examination of men versus women‘s magazines, and type of magazines. Past research focuses on analysis of specific themes within one category of magazines, rather than comparison between different categories. This being the case, our study demonstrates that since the media are an important source of information for the public, popular health and lifestyle magazines carry a responsibility to accurately educate the public on health issues. Our data and analysis provide a substantial basis for future research in health messaging.

Is It More Scary to be Sick or to Look Ugly? The Role of Threats and Message Framing on Persuasion

Student Researcher: Nam Kim (PhD)

Faculty Researcher: Meghan Sanders

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Kim, N., & Sanders, M. S. (May, 2011). Is It More Scary to Be Sick or to Look Ugly? The Role of Threatsand Message Framing on Persuasion . Paper to be presented at the annual meeting of the InternationalCommunication Association, Boston.

Abstract: For today’s youth, a beautiful appearance is ideal, even if it is accomplished by taking a health risk. This is one of the reasons that tanning in the sun or under a tanning bed is popular and perceived as “cool” among the young generation. To inform them about the dangers of tanning, most Public Service Announcements (PSAs) have used a health threat (e.g., skin cancer) as fear appeals in their campaigns; however, if the messages were tailored more towards the youth’s interests (i.e., a beauty consequence), the message can be more effective at promoting healthy behaviors. In this point, we examined message effects in two main threat contexts, namely a beauty threat or a health threat as an outcome attribute. Within the same message format, there is a possibility that a certain type of tanning consequence can attract some segments more than others. A 2 (Threats: Beauty vs. Health) X 2 (Message Framing: Loss vs. Gain) factorial experiment was conducted (N =166). The findings show that a beauty threat in gain-framed messages seems to be more effective as much as a health threat to evoke negative attitudes toward tanning and less intention to a tan. Several interesting theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Is It Better To Promote Fear Or Beauty? The Role of Individuals’ Regulatory Focus, Message Framing, and Advertising Appeal in Youth’s Perceptions of Antismoking Advertising

Student Researcher: Nam Kim (PhD)

Faculty Researcher: Meghan Sanders

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Kim, N., & Sanders, M. S. (June, 2010). Is It Better To Promote Fear Or Prevent Beauty? Paper presented atthe annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Singapore.

Abstract: No health-related campaign message can persuade every individual. How, then, can we persuade diverse individuals to reduce or eliminate their unhealthy behaviors? This is the main problem that an anti-smoking campaign needs to solve. While several studies have indicated that the match between individuals’ self regulatory goals and message framing can strongly enhance the persuasion effect, no empirical study has examined this fit effect with diverse advertising themes. Even with the same message format, there is a possibility that a certain type of smoking and quitting smoking consequence can attract some segments of the population more than others, depending on their regulatory goals. Therefore, we examined the regulatory fit effect in two main advertising theme contexts: beauty appeal or fear appeal as an outcome attribute. A 2 (Regulatory Focus: Promotion vs. Prevention) X 2 (Message Framing: Loss vs. Gain) X 2 (Advertising Appeal: Beauty vs. Fear) factorial online experiment was conducted (N =150). Among participants with a prevention focus, those who were exposed to loss framing evaluated less psychological benefits of smoking than those who were exposed to gain framing (the regulatory fit effect). However, when the cosmetic consequences were presented as an outcome, the results were reversed (the regulatory misfit effect). In addition, our results repeatedly confirmed the main effect of individuals’ regulatory goal, not the match effect between their regulatory focus and message framing, in terms of intention to smoke and message perception. Several interesting findings as well as theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Evaluating Different Health Communication Theories to Deter College Binge Drinking: A Look at Promising Directions for Future Research

Student Researcher: Kristen Meyer Sunde

Faculty Supervisor: Lance Porter

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Sunde, K. (2010). Evaluating Different Health Communication Theories to Deter College Binge Drinking: A Look at Promising Directions for Future Research

Abstract: For more than 30 years, college administrators and health communicators have used binge drinking prevention campaigns on university campuses to deter students from this dangerous and life-threatening habit.

Despite the prevalence of such campaigns (Wechsler, Seibring, Liu & Ahl, 2004), binge drinking remains the top public health threat for this population (Wechsler, Dowdall, Davenport, & Castillo, 1995).In this study, the researcher conducted an experiment using fear appeals to see if these messages were more effective than social norms messages, which are often used in college binge drinking prevention campaigns (Real & Rimal, 2007), at prompting higher message credibility and intentions to change behavior for a sample of college students.

Overall, students in this experiment who viewed messages containing fear, either alone or combined with social norms, reported higher message credibility scores, and students who received a message using only fear reported higher intentions to change behavior than students who received a message with only social norms.

This study offers experimental evidence that fear appeals could be an effective health communication strategy for binge drinking prevention campaigns aimed at college students.