Background: We have little evidence about the characteristics of effective campaigns relating to obesity prevention.
Aim: to quantitatively and qualitatively test adult’s reactions to various existing public health television advertisements addressing healthy eating, physical activity and healthy weight to determine which ads have the highest levels of perceived effectiveness, message acceptance and emotional impact.
Methods: Quantitative: 3,313 Australian adults aged 21-55 years completed a web-based survey. Participants were randomly assigned to view and rate four of eight shortlisted ads related to a specified lifestyle topic (healthy eating, physical activity or healthy weight). Qualitative: 24 group discussions with a total of 172 participants, segmented by life stage (young adults, parents), sex and education, were conducted in regional and metropolitan locations in Victoria, NSW and Queensland, Australia. Three groups were assigned to each of the respective advertising streams (Weight, Activity, Eating).
Results: Quantitative: Ads featuring graphic imagery were generally among the highest rated on all three response measures, except for ‘Man drinking fat’ which rated low on message acceptance. Animated ads performed well in terms of personalised perceived effectiveness and message acceptance, but had minimal negative emotional impact. Most depicted scene style ads tended to be rated lowest for personalised perceived effectiveness. Qualitative: Segments of the target audience responded differently to the various styles of ads and messages, depending on demographic factors and their current status with respect to weight, diet and lifestyle. Those who were furthest from the weight, diet and activity recommendations responded best to ads that involved gentle persuasion and helpful hints, while those who were closer to the recommendations reacted to stronger, more graphic and more emotive advertising.
Conclusions: Findings from this program of research provide insights into the kinds of messages and executional characteristics that could be pursued as part of effective lifestyle mass media campaigns.