Content analysis of public health campaigns promoting healthy weight and lifestyle — ASN Events

Content analysis of public health campaigns promoting healthy weight and lifestyle (#112)

Helen Dixon 1 , Trish Cotter 2 , Sarah Maloney 1 , Maree Scully 1 , Sarah Durkin 1 , Emily Brennan 3 , Blythe O'Hara 4 , Chris Rissel 4 , Melanie Wakefield 1
  1. Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
  2. Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
  3. Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA
  4. Prevention Research Collaboration, Sydney School of Public Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Aim: To identify and content analyse existing adult-targeted public health television advertisements addressing weight, physical activity and nutrition from Australia and internationally.

Method: An extensive sample of English-language ads focused on one or more of the three lifestyle topics of interest were identified via keyword searches of Google, YouTube and websites of relevant government agencies and health organisations. Ads were eligible for inclusion if they were: produced between 2007 and 2012; no longer than 60 seconds; not sponsored by the commercial sector; primarily targeting adults. Eligible ads (n=99) were coded for: lifestyle topic, mentions of health effects, message content, execution style, emotional content, and whether they addressed five key behavioural principles.

Results: Overall, 53% of ads focused on nutrition, 40% on weight and 22% on physical activity. Most ads (87%) included mentions of health effects associated with the respective lifestyle topics. Supportive/encouraging messages were more frequently used in physical activity ads, while there were a higher proportion of messages about health consequences and social norms/acceptability in weight ads compared to all other ads. Execution style differed across lifestyle topics, with depicted scenes more common in physical activity ads, simulation/animation in nutrition ads, and graphic images and negative testimonials in weight ads. There was relatively low use of principles known to facilitate behaviour change, with the exception of physical activity ads which typically addressed modelling (91%), objective capacity (82%) and, to a lesser extent, positive reinforcement (59%) and subjective capacity (50%).

Conclusion: This study provides useful insight into the advertising characteristics employed in existing public health campaigns and highlights important differences in how messages about weight, physical activity and nutrition are being communicated. Findings from this study will serve as a foundation for subsequent audience testing research to identify effective elements of healthy weight and lifestyle mass media campaigns.