Peer or expert? The persuasive impact of YouTube public service announcements producers

Hye-Jin Paek, Thomas Hove and Hyun Ju Jeong
Michigan State University

Mikyoung Kim
Ewha Womans University


The increasing popularity of websites that feature user-generated content (UGC) has triggered a new phase in public service advertising campaigns (Croft 2008; Todi 2008; Vance et al. 2009). One website that has rapidly become a key hub for sharing user-generated videos is YouTube (Loechner 2008). Researchers who study new media have noted that YouTube and other UGC websites are creating new viewing patterns, social interactions and communication dynamics between message producers and receivers (Jenkins 2006; Bian et al. 2008; Shirky 2008).

By facilitating Internet users’ engagement in the creation and delivery of prosocial messages, UGC websites can strengthen professionals’ efforts to promote social causes and issues among key target audiences. One strategy is to supplement existing grassroots concern by hosting viral video contests and providing opportunities for laypeople to create cause-related messages for the general public. For example, as part of an effort encouraging Americans to actively protect themselves from the H1N1 flu virus, the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recently sponsored a public service announcement (PSA) contest on YouTube (DHHS 2009). Informing this plan was the assumption that a PSA video created by someone from a perceivably similar group will be more effective than one produced by an expert or an organisation. However, despite the increasing trend to involve individual Internet users in creating and delivering persuasive campaign messages, little is known about the extent to which a PSA video will be more effective depending on who produced it.