Exploring the Effectiveness of Interactive Public Service Advertising

By Ming Chieh Hsu.

Published by The International Journal of Design Education

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: June 25, 2014 $US5.00

This study focuses on the effectiveness of interactive public service advertisements (also known as PSAs) in promoting moral values in the society, as well as defining certain behaviors and ideologies. In comparison to regular commercials, a public service ad takes on a more difficult task in framing the audience’s mindset or in advocating behaviors. Through an experimental design of an interactive advertising communication, this study targets the middle class general public and some EMBA students, adopts random sampling of digital interactive media to study the manipulation of independent variables (interactive public service ads vs. traditional print public service ads), and employs “between-subject” design experimentation. Considering empathy as an important intervening variable, this study has explored “sympathy” as an emotional reaction from audiences through interactivity. Due to the perceptions and social purposes of public service ads, “social awareness establishment” and “behavioral intentions” are used to evaluate the effectiveness of the advertisements. The result suggests that 1) Interactive PSAs evoke emotional reactions (sympathy and empathy) and desired advertising effects (attitudes toward an ad, social awareness establishment, and behavioral intention,) so their indirect power is better than traditional printed public service ads; 2) interactivity educes sympathy, which triggers empathy and creates a significantly indirect impact among audiences; 3) emotional reactions (sympathy and empathy) have significant positive impact on establishing moral and ethical principles. Unlike sympathy, empathy has no positive influence on behavioral intensions. However, empathy is an intervening variable on the attitudes toward the ads, which eventually influence behavioral intentions. In summary, attitudes toward advertising, social awareness, and behavioral intensions are best achieved through sympathy and empathy.

Keywords: Interactive Public Service Advertising, Interaction Design, Sympathy, Empathy

The International Journal of Design Education, Volume 8, Issue 1, June 2014, pp.33-51. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 25, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 412.354KB)).

Asst. Prof. Ming Chieh Hsu

Assistant Professor, Department of Information Communication, Yuan Ze University, Chung Li, Taoyuan, Taiwan