So Courteney Cox and David Arquette are having a tough week. First they announced their separation and now I have to highlight the poor design of a recent public service announcement (PSA) in which they starred. I must say- they made a much better team on the set of their "Scream" movies.
A recent Newsweek article entitled "Can PSAs End Domestic Violence?" discussed the Cox/Arquette PSA and outlined the challenges of using this particular health communication channel to address the public health problem of domestic violence. The article quotes a wonderful professor of mine (thank you Dr. Emily Rothman for posting this link), so I decided to check the PSA out for myself. Overall, my impression was not good. Let's compare the PSA to some best practices and/or guidelines and see how it holds up. A great resource on this (and all aspects of program planning) comes from the Community Toolbox:
1. PSA Length
A typical PSA runs about 30 seconds. This video runs 1 minute, 50 seconds. And the viewer does not even know what the video is about (cue a random segment about "furry" sex) until the timer hits 1 minute, 25 seconds. They could have very easily lost viewers by that point (either due to boredom, confusion, or because they were offended by the "furry" segment).
2. PSAs Should Have a Clear Message and Call To Action (i.e., what do you want the viewer to do after they see your video?)
So I was a little surprised that the video did not include any specific hotline numbers. In case the audience included victims of DV, you would think that it would be a priority to list those resources. Instead, the only "action" that I could see outlined was how to donate to "OPCC"...and it was unclear what that organization was. So I followed the instructions at the end of the video that gave their Facebook address. Again, there is a huge logo that says "OPCC" (still not sure what that is, so I probably won't give money) and finally (in much smaller writing) some hotline numbers on the left. I went one more step and went to the Ocean Park Community Center (OPCC) website, where it still wasn't immediately clear how this organization supported domestic violence prevention. Apparently, this PSA was to support one of the community programs called Sojourn (a women's shelter)...but geez- how hard was that to figure out!!!???
3. Like any good health communication product, there should be a clear target audience
I have no idea who the audience was for this PSA. This is a direct result of the lack of a clear "call to action". This video had no idea who they expected as an audience or what they wanted those individuals to do. Before the video starts, we are told "this is not for kids" (again- due to the "furry"). So kids are excluded as a possible audience- which is a shame because young adults are also victims of domestic violence. I'm assuming that domestic violence victims themselves are not the audience, since the video did not include any links to DV hotlines/shelters. I doubt the audience was supposed to be DV perpetrators, because I doubt that they would be giving donations. So maybe the intended audience was just potential donors? It is unclear.
Ahh! I know I'm a broken record about this issue on my blog. As Dr. Rothman states in the Newsweek article, "there haven't been that many well-designed, rigorous evaluations of the ad's effectiveness". The OPCC spokesperson says that it has been effective because "people are talking about the ad" (how do we know?) and Facebook traffic was up (as of tonight, just 365 people had "liked" the page). But even if "talk" is increased, is that really changing the attitudes or behaviors that were (maybe) targeted by this PSA? If they had clearer goals and a call to action (e.g., The audience for this PSA is women who are victims of DV and the behavior we want to see is an increase in calls to our hotline)- it would be much easier to evaluate. And that evaluation would go well beyond "awareness".