Persuasive Effects of Health Advocacy Within Entertainment Television Programming

TitlePersuasive Effects of Health Advocacy Within Entertainment Television Programming
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Nevar, P. M., and J. C. Hitchon
Affiliation (1st Author)Department of Life Sciences Communication College of Agricultural & Life Sciences University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, Wi 53706-1215 US
Section or WGHealth Communication and Change Working Group
DateFri 28 June
Slot CodeCHAF4a
Slot Code (Keyword)CHAF4a
Time of Session16:00-17:30
Session TitleHealth Message Framing and Risk Perception
Submission ID5940

Fragmentation of audiences beyond traditional and news media has prompted communicators to use new vehicles to reach populations of interest, such as on-line, social and entertainment media. This research examines the use of entertainment programming to persuade audiences to support health issues:  promoting organ donation, promoting smoking cessation, discouraging addictive cosmetic surgery, and promoting adoption as a solution for infertility. Inserting health issues into the plots of entertainment programming falls under the broader phenomenon identified in the communication research literature as “cause placement.” Cause placement is a relatively new communication technique that can be viewed as an extension of the advertising strategy used since the 1930s, called brand or product placement. Expanding on research into brand placement, and integrating such theoretical frameworks as Bandura’s Social Learning Theory, ELM and HSM, this research examined the role of two factors, involvement with a health issue and message sidedness, on the persuasiveness of health messages placed within the context of normal primetime entertainment television programming. Two experiments were conducted to explore the impact of embedding health messages on a number of outcome variables including affective response, perceived persuasiveness and perceived effectiveness of the health advocacy, attitude and behavioral intentions toward the health issue. Qualtrics on-line service was used to conduct random surveys of the US population 18-50 years of age, which corresponded to current viewer profiles of the five major television networks. Previously aired episodes of ER, Gray’s Anatomy, Nip Tuck, and Sex and the City yielded programming stimuli. Findings confirmed the significant role of personal involvement and message sidedness as predictive factors in the perception and processing of persuasive health advocacy placed within the context of entertainment programming. For example, results indicated that increased involvement in a health issue produces more favorable attitudes, greater perceptions of effectiveness and persuasiveness, and greater likelihood of engaging in such public health initiatives as advocating for policy change, donating, seeking more information and sharing information with others. Moreover, interactions emerged suggesting that when audience involvement in the health issue is high, one-sided messages triumph over multi-sided messages. This research was supported by a grant from the UW-Madison Population Health Dissertation Grants Sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program.

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