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Evaluating Fear Appeal Messages in Tweets about the Tips Campaign

Authors: Sherry L. Emery, Ph.D., Glen Szczypka, M.A., Eulàlia Puig Abril, Ph.D., Yoonsang Kim, Ph.D., and Lisa Vera


In March 2012, the CDC launched “Tips from Former Smokers,” a $54 million national campaign featuring individuals experiencing long-term health consequences of smoking. The campaign approach was based on strong evidence that anti-tobacco ads portraying fear, graphic images, and personal testimonials are associated with attitudinal and behavior change. Yet it was also controversial; critics cited the danger that viewers might reject such intensely graphic messages. Tasked with informing this debate, our study analyzes the corpus of Tips campaign-related tweets obtained via the Twitter Firehose. We provide a novel and rigorous method for media campaign evaluation within the framework of the Extended Parallel Process Model. Among the relevant Tweets, 87% showed evidence of message acceptance, while 7% exhibited message rejection.

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