Research Identifies How to Craft Public Health Advertising during a Crisis
A study recently published in the Journal of Advertising shows that context harm crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic require not only bespoke advertising efforts for various communities and societies, but also an evolving, multistage approach not recognized in prior advertising literature on health messaging.
The research, based on consumer-focused advertising drawing implications for public health advertising, was undertaken by Schulich Professor Ela Veresiu in collaboration with Thomas Derek Robinson from the Business School (formerly Cass) at the City, University of London.
“Ultimately, the purpose of advertising in a context harm crisis is to restore consumer hope by providing interpretative resources about an imagined future in which goals are emotionally, rationally, and existentially congruent and possible,” said Veresiu.
The co-authors identify three key elements to ensure the success of a public health campaign during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. Firstly, crises establish a general sense of mourning for the future that did not happen. In response, successful health messaging should first walk us through all the stages of grief: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and finally acceptance. Secondly, crises result in catastrophic apathy. Hence, health messaging should next reconstruct our shared anticipations for the future and shore up planning behaviours. Lastly, crises ruin our identity. Successful health messaging should thus provide us tools to manage individual and collective identity transformation.