The Effectiveness of Online Messages for Promoting Smoking Cessation Resources: Predicting Nationwide Campaign Effects From Neural Responses in the EX Campaign

Ralf Schmälzle, Nicole Cooper, Matthew Brook O’Donnell, Steven Tompson, Sangil Lee, Jennifer Cantrell, Jean M. Vettel, Emily B. Falk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

What are the key ingredients that make some persuasive messages resonate with audiences and elicit action, while others fail? Billions of dollars per year are put towards changing human behavior, but it is difficult to know which messages will be the most persuasive in the field. By combining novel neuroimaging techniques and large-scale online data, we examine the role of key health communication variables relevant to motivating action at scale. We exposed a sample of smokers to anti-smoking web-banner messages from a real-world campaign while measuring message-evoked brain response patterns via fMRI, and we also obtained subjective evaluations of each banner. Neural indices were derived based on: (i) message-evoked activity in specific brain regions; and (ii) spatially distributed response patterns, both selected based on prior research and theoretical considerations. Next, we connected the neural and subjective data with an independent, objective outcome of message success, which is the per-banner click-through rate in the real-world campaign. Results show that messages evoking brain responses more similar to signatures of negative emotion and vividness had lower online click-through-rates. This strategy helps to connect and integrate the rapidly growing body of knowledge about brain function with formative research and outcome evaluation of health campaigns, and could ultimately further disease prevention efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number565772
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Volume14
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 25 2020

Keywords

  • advertising
  • banner ads
  • click-through rate
  • fMRI
  • health communication
  • smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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