Dr. Joe Phua Publishes New Research on the Power of Emotional Messaging in Vaccine Communications

By Bella Cox and Liby Navarro

Dr. Joe Phua is a Professor and the Endowed Distinguished Chair at the Temerlin Advertising Institute at Southern Methodist University.  In 2011, he earned his Ph.D. from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California. Throughout his career, Dr. Phua has worked with over $4.5 million in external research funded by distinguished organizations.  His research has explored new communication technologies, their impact on advertising and branding, and their application in sports marketing and health communications and have been featured in significant media outlets such as ABC News and National Public Radio (NPR).

Through his published work in some of the utmost journals, including the Journal of Advertising and Journal of Consumer Behavior, Dr. Phua has won awards from the International Communication Association (ICA), American Academy of Academy (AAA), and the International Communication Association (ICA), among many others.   

His most recent research titled, “Encouraging Positive Dialog Toward COVID-19 Vaccines on Social Media Using Hope Appeals, Celebrity Types, and Emoticons” was published in the journal,  Mass Communication & Society, and was conducted in conjunction with an international team of colleagues from Washington State University, National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, and the University of Melbourne. This study evaluates how utilizing hope appeals, celebrity endorsements, and value emoticons shaped attitudes about COVID-19 vaccinations.  In addition, it discusses ongoing research to refine messaging strategies and improve the effectiveness of public health campaigns.  

For this research, Dr. Phua and his colleagues were interested in examining how social media posts by celebrity endorsers can influence their followers’ attitudes towards the COVID vaccine. Two experiments were conducted in the study:

In experiment one, they tested three celebrity endorser types (politician, scientist, athlete) and two message types (high and low relevance hope appeal). This experiment revealed that politicians posting low relevance hope appeal messages had the strongest effect on changing attitudes towards the COVID vaccine.

In experiment two, three emoticon types (positive, neutral, negative) and the same two message types (high and low relevance hope appeal) were used. It was concluded that neutral emoticons (wow, haha), rather than positive (like, love, hug) or negative (sad, angry) emoticons, had the strongest effect on changing attitudes towards the COVID vaccine.

For both experiments, it was concluded that the more someone strongly identified with the celebrity endorser posting the message, the more strongly their attitudes towards the COVID vaccine were changed.

Dr. Phua emphasized that “through examining COVID vaccine messages, this study was helpful to healthcare organizations who can be better prepared to use the most effective social media-based message strategies to combat and mitigate any major health pandemics that may arise in the future in the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic.”

In addition, Dr. Phua recently visited Nanyang Technological University in Singapore to initiate research and teaching collaborations. 

FACULTY RESEARCH: Hope Inspires Bystander Intervention

Temerlin’s Dr. Sid Muralidharan and Dr. Carrie La Ferle have published a follow-up to their 2019 study, which explores emotional appeals in public health messaging to mitigate domestic violence in India.  According to UN Women, a global database on violence against women, India reports a 288% lifetime rate of physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, compared to 29% in the U.K., 269% in Argentina, and 38% in Turkey. These wide-ranging domestic violence rates by country underscore the importance of research for domestic violence prevention messaging.

The original study, published in the Journal of Advertising, found shame messaging, compared to guilt, to be the more effective message to inspire bystander intervention. In the follow-up study recently published in the Journal of Nonprofit and Public Sector Marketing, Dr. Sid, associate professor, and Dr. La Ferle, the Marriott Endowed Professor of Ethics and Culture, compare shame to hope in public service announcement messages. This study finds that bystanders are motivated to act when hope, more so than shame, messaging is utilized. “Social marketers would benefit from crafting domestic violence prevention messages that are framed with a strong hope appeal, i.e., a positive outcome of saving the victim will be achieved by calling the helpline,” Dr. Sid explains. For bystanders, hope is the key to motivating action through goals, agency, and pathways; therefore, marketers have to integrate these three components in their messaging. In other words, saving the victim from further abuse (goal) can be achieved by providing a helpline number (pathway), and the anonymity and ease of calling the helpline will increase motivation to help (agency).

While advertising is often perceived as a way to sell goods, the importance of research on domestic violence prevention messaging underscores for society the ethical component of advertising. Dr. Sid and Dr. La Ferle teach courses such as Advertising as a Cultural Force, Advertising Society and Ethics, and Responsibility and Social Entrepreneurship to Temerlin’s undergraduate and graduate students. Through their ongoing research, Temerlin professors play an active role in providing solutions to serious issues.

STUDENT INTERNSHIP: TAI Student Noemie Mwanzuzi’s Internship in Brussels

This experience entailed interning for Duval Guillaume, while also assisting Publicis Emil, the global network agency for Daimler, as well as doing an English voiceover for Leo Burnett—all agencies are entities of Publicis Groupe.

My presence has been a bit of a hot topic, as it is uncommon to hear of a Texan girl going all the way to Brussels for an internship. Yet, here I was! But it all started like this…

One random day in April, I found myself googling internships in Brussels. A few agencies piqued my interest, so I spent the next few days sending emails. To my surprise, I received a reply from an agency, Duval Guillaume. I was shortly in correspondence with the Account Manager, Axelle Gontier, who oversaw the internship program. A Skype interview was scheduled and that Friday I received word that I had gotten the internship. All of this in the span of a week!

Then on June 3rd, 2019 I arrived at the Publicis building, the office stood tall and looked prestigious. When I walked in I could see the building had an industrial meets modern feel. I would come to learn that it used to be a customs office. I was welcomed by Nathalie, the HR manager, who gave me an office tour which was followed up by a detour to IT, where I received my company laptop. Shortly after, I met the entire Duval team and settled at my desk to start my days as a Duval intern.

As my time here came to an end, I couldn’t help but to feel this bittersweet feeling. After initially feeling anxious about going into the unknown, I soon found my rhythm. I had my morning routine of taking the Stade 51 tram, walking to the office, talking to the receptionists, getting my morning coffee, and starting my day. I had so many wonderful teachers who were so patient and kind. I interacted with many talented people who gave me great insight into life in this industry.

Here are some of my top moments from my time in Brussels:

  1. Former Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Lévy walked passed, the glass conference room, I was in as I stared at him
  2. I was asked to do a voiceover for a Greenpeace voiceover, that didn’t end up getting used but nonetheless
  3. I was asked to do another voiceover for a breast cancer charity event
  4. I got credit for managing the PR on a Greenpeace project
  5. I helped Publicis Emil with any tasks they needed me to do
  6. I got to work with the coolest family-like team who welcomed me with open arms and who taught me so much

I was drawn to Brussels as I had fond memories of my time there with family, but I would have never expected to be an intern there. This summer in Brussels, at Duval Guillaume, was truly an experience that I will never forget!

Rani Vestal

Temerlin Advertising Institute MA in Advertising Students Study in Hong Kong

Eight Temerlin Advertising Institute (TAI) graduate students spent three weeks in Hong Kong this summer to study advertising in another culture. The program was led by TAI faculty members Dr. Carrie La Ferle, Director of Graduate Studies and Professor, and Dr. Steve Edwards, Director and Professor.  All first-year Master’s students took part in this global immersion experience, which was designed to expand industry knowledge and refine cultural sensitivities in a dynamic foreign market.

Class of 2014 leaps into their future in advertising with global immersion experience.
Class of 2014 leaps into their future in advertising with global immersion experience.

Students completed an international advertising class, taught by Dr. Carrie La Ferle, during their stay and participated in a number of agency visits and cultural tours to further leverage their coursework. They attended presentations by industry experts at top agencies, including Mindshare, Publicis, Omninom Group Inc. and Create Hong Kong. Other cultural highlights included hiking in the surrounding mountains, dining at local restaurants, and spending a weekend in Macau.

The Temerlin Advertising Institute offers one of the only MA in Advertising programs with a built in global immersion experience.  Established in 2009, the Master of Arts in Advertising program in the Temerlin Advertising Institute at SMU incorporates theory and practice from every major discipline within advertising and filters it through the lens of social and corporate responsibility.  The leaders coming out of TAI recognize their responsibility to their brands, their consumers, their industry and their society.

For more information on the MA in Advertising at SMU, visit: http://smu.edu/temerlin/graduate/index.asp