Table of Contents
CDC Zombie campaign is an example of using a non-standard approach in communications. Unlike previous initiatives, Zombie-related activities received high visibility and effectiveness. This paper will discuss the barriers and possible complications of using humor for addressing a serious issue. Besides, the relationship between effectiveness and visibility will be analyzed. Finally, the paper will research possible application of humorous approach in other campaigns. The analysis in this paper shows that despite some risks, humor raises the effectiveness of communication and visibility of the message.
Dangers and Potential Complications of Using Humor for a Serious Issue
Apart from numerous benefits, using humor for addressing a serious issue involves some dangers and potential complications. First, professionals might choose wrong theme and tools and thus, the target audience would not be able to understand the humor. Moreover, viewers could feel offended or irritated. Second, addressing the issue in a humoristic way might make people think that the problem is not serious enough so they may laugh and do nothing. There is also a danger that the target audience is too conservative to respond to the new approach of communicating the issue. The CDC Zombie Case was designed for young population, who reacted well to the campaign. At the same time, some media said that that using zombies was a baloney (Kruvand & Silver, 2013). They also claimed that CDC had to use time and tax money to prepare for real natural disasters (Kruvand & Silver, 2013). Finally, humor could be dangerous for the reputation of an organization. For example, CDC is the most credible source of public health information. Locating inappropriate content might reduce this credibility. Therefore, CDC carefully selected zombie-related activities. However, other companies can make errors in this field and lose loyal audience.
Visibility and Effectiveness
Visibility does not always equate to effectiveness. For example, Zombie campaign had a high visibility. The first post had about 60,000 views per hour after three days (Kruvand & Silver, 2013). Overall, it received 4.8 million views in two years (Kruvand & Silver, 2013). Besides, readers made more than 1,200 comments on the post (Kruvand & Silver, 2013). Zombie-related activities on Facebook and Twitter were also very popular. The campaign was discussed in media and its developers even received awards for their idea. However, it is difficult to understand whether the visibility of the message provided knowledge on how to act and resulted in motivation to prepare for disasters and make real steps. The problem with the Zombie case is that the developers set very broad objectives for the campaign. Particularly, they did not determine any qualitative goals (Kruvand & Silver, 2013). CDC had to establish three types of objectives such as informational, motivational and behavioral. Informational goals entail identifying the needs of target population and then evaluating whether the campaign provided necessary information. In case of CDC Zombie campaign, developers offered all the necessary data about preparing to emergencies. However, it is unclear whether the target audience has understood this data. There are many comments to zombie-related posts, but it is impossible to determine the exact number of people that received the information and remembered it. Motivational objectives imply determining whether the data has changed the attitudes and beliefs of people. Individuals could understand the information about importance of preparedness to natural disasters, but they could stay apathetic to this issue. Finally, behavioral objectives identify whether the campaign forced the target audience to make certain actions. It is possible to find comments in social media where people say that they prepared an emergency kit or created a plan of action during an emergency. However, there are no exact rates of effectiveness of the Zombie campaign. CDC only has clear rates of visibility.
Therefore, CDC Zombie Case demonstrates that high visibility does not mean high effectiveness because the target audience needs not to only notice the campaign, but also understand the information presented as well as change own beliefs and take specific action. On the other hand, visibility is the first step toward effectiveness. If the target audience does not notice the new campaign, they will not demonstrate any reactions to it. For example, if people had not paid attention to the post on CDC’s website, Twitter and Facebook, they would not have started sharing the information on their own accounts and discussing the topic. Schools would not begin using zombies for telling children about the importance of preparedness for the natural disaster. Media would not analyze the issue either. Therefore, visibility is highly important for the effectiveness of the campaign.
Humor in Advertising Sensitive Health Issues
In addition, different approach might have been effective in advertising delicate health problems. Normally, campaigns about these issues are straightforward and boring and thus, have low effectiveness. Humor would allow increasing both visibility and effectiveness of medical advertising. For example, such approach has already been used for informing about prostate cancer (Newman, 2012). Men do not like talking about this issue; so introduction of the “Prostate Czech” has helped them relax. Besides, the humorous approach is currently used for the suicide prevention. In the beginning, suicide survivors and health care professionals were skeptical about the effectiveness of using humor in advertising this issue. However, they gradually accepted the humorous approach. Moreover, this way of advertising is also effectively used outside the U.S. Particularly, thousands of Australian men have visited Man Therapy websites after watching a humorous advertisement with Dr. Ironwood on TV (Health Direct Australia).
Overall, the effectiveness of humor in advertising delicate health problems could be explained by helping men deal with anxiety, discomfort or shame (Nabi, 2015). They start to realize that their health issues are normal and they should not be afraid talking about them. In advertisements, the target audience sees a funny doctor, who says that men should have their way of dealing with serious life issues. This approach helps encourage male patients to think about the importance of finding the solution and avoiding suicide. They realize that there is a way out to any crisis event. Besides, humor allowed dealing with the stereotype that masculine men cannot have mental health issues and they do not need assistance of healthcare providers (Mocarski & Butler, 2015). Therefore, humorous way of advertising is particularly effective for masculine men.
In conclusion, humor proved its effectiveness in different campaigns. Thus, this approach helped CDC raise an interest among young population about the preparedness for natural disasters. However, using humor also involves dangers and potential complications. The company can choose wrong jokes, which might offend the target audience. Humor could also make the issue less serious as well as deteriorate the reputation of an organization. Another problem is effectiveness. Humorous campaigns might have high visibility, but this does not mean that they will motivate the target audience to change their beliefs and take specific actions. For example, CDC Zombie campaign clearly had a high visibility, but its effectiveness was not so noticeable. Apart from informing about preparedness for natural disasters, different approach can be applied in advertising delicate health issues. For example, there are effective campaigns addressing the suicide prevention and prostate cancer.