Mass media

The key to this intervention Mass media interventions usually involve developing and placing advertising in a range of text-based and visual media (such as newspapers, magazines and the internet) to give information about a particular HIV-related topic or service. Adverts need to be easy to comprehend, engaging and cultural appropriate.

What is the activity?

Mass media interventions usually involve developing and placing advertising in a range of text-based and visual media (such as newspapers, magazines and the internet) to give information about a particular HIV or sexual health topic or service. In some instances, mass media interventions also appear on 'outdoor' advertising sites such as bus shelters; in trains or buses; or on bill boards.

Mass media advertisements are frequently part of campaigns that can incorporate the key messages and imagery used in associated small media, broadcast and electronic media and websites. In this way, various media placements and media complement one another, helping to increase recognition among the target population.

In the last few years social marketing approaches to mass media advertising have become increasing common. Social marketing is the subject of a Making it Count briefing sheet available here.

Strengths and limitations

Mass media advertising extends the reach of interventions to those who are not likely to come into contact with service providers or outreach staff. Also, those who see such advertising can do so in their own time and space, without worrying about who may have seen them picking up a leaflet in a public space.

Reading about HIV and sexual health in everyday contexts (when flicking through a community newspaper, or when browsing the internet for instance) can help people to consider that the issues might affect them. This helps HIV to be regarded as an issue that should not be stigmatised.

Carefully considered placement in publications that are designed to reach a clearly articulated target audience makes mass media advertising more cost effective. The use of targeted publications also means that interventions can be tailored for specific audiences.

On their own, mass media adverts cannot be expected to result in behavioural change. However, they are an essential part of the environment within which HIV prevention need can be met. An advert can only expect to achieve a moment’s glance from most people that encounter it.

Where does it happen

Mass media adverts are usually placed in media targeting MSM in the UK including regional or sub-population specific newspapers, websites and magazines; and in media targeting people with diagnosed HIV. Printed posters of mass media adverts, can also be displayed in HIV or MSM-friendly service settings and commercial venues where a large proportion of the clientele are gay or bisexual. In the CHAPS partnership such venues include bookshops, bars, clubs, cafes, saunas and some shops.

Frequently delivered alongside ...

Issues to consider

In order for a mass media advert to gain readers’ interest and trust, it must be well designed, and submitted as a high resolution digital image to the specification of the publisher.

Although placing adverts in magazines can cost very little for each person who might see it, the total cost of developing, testing, designing, and placing a mass media advert is often quite high. All costs should be established well in advance of development.

Significant research should be undertaken to ensure that identified publications have the reach and the audience that is required for a particular intervention. Most publishers hold detailed information on their readership, and this should be investigated closely before time and money is wasted in the wrong location. For instance, an HIV prevention advert placed in a national paid-for gay magazine might reach a higher proportion of MSM in a geographical area than a free local gay-scene magazine.

Aims and outcomes

The aims and associated outcomes from mass media interventions are primarily knowledge-based.The list below offers some examples of the aims and outcomes associated with mass media interventions, but is not exhaustive.

  1. Increased motivation to avoid HIV exposure and transmission (see associated choice and some of the basic information needed).
  2. Increased uptake of STI screening and HIV testing (see associated choice and potential aims associated with HIV testing knowledge; STI knowledge; and the testing opportunities).
  3. Increased understanding that different sexual activities carry differing risks of HIV transmission (see associated choices such as avoiding anal intercourse or using condoms for anal intercourse and aims such as knowing the risks associated with anal intercourse and the benefits of condom use).
  4. Increased understanding of means of HIV risk reduction when unprotected anal intercourse does occur (see associated choices such as withdrawal before ejaculation and the knowledge and skills required).
  5. Increased requests for (and uptake of) PEP following sexual exposure to HIV (see associated choice and the potential aims associated with PEP knowledge and opportunities).

Monitoring and evaluation

A key element of monitoring the production of mass media interventions is ensuring that an archive of interventions at various phases of their development, as well as an archive of final products is maintained for future reference. This allows agencies, partners and researchers to trace the history of mass media productionand learn from any mistakes made.

Monitoring of mass media placement requires keeping dated copies of print publications that hold the advert, as well as requesting that website providers give a breakdown of page impressions and click-through rates.

As mass media interventions are likely to be developed alongside small media and other associated interventions, similar forms of evaluation will apply. At various phases of mass media development, the ideas, design and language used in the intervention should be pre-tested with people in the target population. Devising a variety of possible executions at this time enables those engaging in pre-testing to articulate which particular aspects of different executions they prefer.

The extent to which mass media adverts have reached those in specific settings or geographical areas can be assessed by coverage surveys, where individuals are asked if they recall seeing a particular item. Coverage questions can be included in broader surveys, which reduces costs, and also means that other demographics can be cross-tabulated so that there is a greater understanding about which sub-groups of the target population are most likely to have seen (or not seen) the intervention.

In terms of outcomes and impact, very little priority is given to evaluation of mass media interventions, though there has been end user evaluation of much of the CHAPS mass media interventions over the last decade.

Page last updated: 17 June 2013

Case study

Count Me In

GMFAs Count Me In campaign asks gay men to commit to a five point action plan to reduce HIV. Video clips posted on Youtube and Facebook show men’s accounts of why preventing HIV infection is important them, and the challenges and solutions they face. Men are invited to post their own videos and to comment on current videos. At the heart of the intervention is an understanding that preventing HIV comes from within communities of gay men. Men are invited to sign-up to publically support the action plan and to ask their friends to do the same.

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Case study

Know Your HIV Status, Get Tested

The Lesbian and Gay Foundation's Know Your HIV Status, Get Tested campaign aims to make MSM think about HIV in relation to their sexual partners by encouraging men to know their own HIV status. The campaign features images of a diverse range of men in mass media adverts that appear in LGF’s Outnorthwest magazine and in posters across Greater Manchester’s gayscene. The campaign also features on LGF’s free safer sex packs, 600,000 of which are distributed each year. The mass media information links men to further information about HIV testing on LGF’s website where details of same day HIV testing can be found.