Perceived risk mediates the impact of mood on the effectiveness of health PSAs: Implications for public health marketing

Sela Sar, George Anghelcev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The aim of the paper is to investigate the impact of pre-existing audience mood on responses to health public service advertisements (PSAs). The paper also aims to show the practical and theoretical importance of mood as a variable in health communication. Design/methodology/approach: Hypotheses regarding the impact of audience mood on the outcome of health PSAs were tested experimentally using health PSAs about vaccination and virus detection behaviors. Findings: The influence of pre-existing mood was mediated by the perceived risk of contracting the illness mentioned in the health advertisement. Personal estimations of risk mediated the impact of audience mood on behavioral intent and actual behavior. The more negative one's mood, the higher the perceived risk of contracting the disease mentioned in the message, and the more likely one was to adopt the precautionary behavior recommended by the PSA. Positive mood had opposite effects. Practical implications: The findings suggest a novel media planning approach to maximizing the effectiveness of health risk messages. Due to the impact of context-induced mood on perceptions of risk, messages could be more effective if placed in editorial contexts which induce negative mood (e.g. crime investigation reports) versus environments which induce positive mood (e.g. sitcoms), because negative mood makes people think they are more at risk and motivates them to act. Originality/value: The mood-and-risk mediation hypothesis proposed here has never been examined in public health marketing. Findings call for further research on the impact of contextual affect on responses to public health communication. The paper suggests a new placement technique for media planners working in public health advertising.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-101
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Social Marketing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Advertising
  • Affect
  • Health communication
  • Mood
  • Public health
  • Public health PSA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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