Are Interactive PSA Formats Always Good? Testing the Identifiable Victim Effect with Instagram Carousel Posts for Pro-Environmental Campaigns

Ja Kyung Seo (Ph.D. student), Hanyoung Kim (Ph.D. alumni), Youngjee Ko (Ph.D. candidate), Hye Jin Yoon, Jeong-Yeob Han, and Youngji Seo (Ph.D. alumni). “Are Interactive PSA Formats Always Good? Testing the Identifiable Victim Effect with Instagram Carousel Posts for Pro-Environmental Campaigns.” Paper to be presented to American Academy of Advertising (AAA) Annual Conference, Denver, CO, March 2023.

Abstract: Social media PSAs promoting pro-environmental attitude and behavior intention seek to benefit from the availability of the interactive social media post format, such as a carousel format. The present study examines the boundary conditions for the effect of the identifiable victim effect in pro-environmental PSAs by jointly considering its delivery format on social media. By implementing an online experiment with a 2 (a single identified victim vs. non-identifiable statistical victims) x 2 (a single-page vs. a carousel format) between-subjects factorial design with message-induced empathy as a measured mediator, this study found that the message featuring non-identifiable animal victims with statistical information was more effective in promoting pro-environmental behavior intention through eliciting empathy when a single-page format (vs. a carousel format) was used. Yet, contrary to predictions, the message with a single identified victim was not more effective when a carousel format was used. The results of this study shed light on the importance of matching social media PSA formats with message framing and offer theoretical and practical implications for interactive advertising on social media.

Ja Kyung Seo  Hye Jin Yoon  Jeong-Yeob Han