Measuring the Impact of Mediated Communication

Posted on: May 9, 2016

map_labFew would argue that media and advertising affect human perception.

But what one particular lab through the College of Communication Arts and Sciences is exploring is the immediate effect that media and advertising has on a person's cognitive, emotional and physiological responses, as well as subsequent behaviors.

Founded in 2014, the Media and Advertising Psychology (MAP) Lab is set up to observe and analyze the effect of mediated communication delivered through social media, television, advertising, print or multi-screen venues. Studies through the MAP Lab measure and collect data using the latest technology in psychophysiological and eye-tracking research.

"We're among the few labs in the country that combine the study of human psychology and physiology as it relates to media use," said Saleem Alhabash, MAP Lab Co-Director and Assistant Professor of Public Relations and Social Media. "What also makes us different is our intense focus on advertising, marketing and social media."

Housed in the Communication Arts and Sciences Building, the MAP Lab consists of a room for researchers and a room for research participants. The experimental room interfaces with devices that track measures like heart rate, pulse, respiration, electrodermal (skin) activity, and facial electromyography (muscle activation) and eye movements. The participant area comes complete with a recliner, TV, books and a large viewing screen – similar to a modern living room.

Researchers collect psychophysiological data using the BIOPAC MP150, while eye-tracking measures like gaze and gaze path, fixation, and duration are collected using the Tobii TX300 (a stationary device equipped with a 22-inch screen) and the Tobii Glasses 2 (a wearable eye tracker).

"By taking measurements as things are viewed, we can see a person's processes related to that particular message," Alhabash said. "For instance, did they pay attention? Did the message activate pleasant emotions? The notion is to see how these processes are linked to consumption behaviors later on."

Currently, MAP Lab Co-Directors Patricia Huddleston, Anastasia Knonova and Ashley Sanders-Jackson and more than two dozen graduate and undergraduate students are conducting multidisciplinary research through the MAP Lab in areas that include health communication, advertising, marketing, social media, retailing and media multitasking. The MAP Lab is funded by the Department of Advertising + Public Relations.

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Professor to Develop App for Diabetes Management

Posted on: February 24, 2016

bholtz-w Bree Holtz started college wanting to direct music videos. Today, the alum of the MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences is changing lives through research and app development in the field of telemedicine.

In early 2016, the MSU assistant professor in ComArtSci received a half-million dollar grant from the American Diabetes Association to create a cell phone app that enables adolescents with Type-1 diabetes to transition to self-management.

"This app is meant to bridge communications and build trust during a critical time for parents and adolescents living with Type 1 diabetes," says Holtz, who has a dual appointment with the Department of Advertising and Public Relations and the Department of Media and Information. "An app like this can help reduce conflict during a time when parents and teens need to stay in tight communication."

The unique phone-based app will teach 10- to 15-year-olds how to manage their diabetes and effectively communicate with their parents. A complementing parent-facing app provides the ability for parents to provide positive feedback and communicate with their child about diabetes management. For instance, parents can give a "thumbs up" in response to notifications that their child tested their blood sugar and entered their numbers.

"The focus isn't so much on constantly asking, 'What's your number?' or 'Have you tested?' as much as to provide supportive messages in response to their child's self-management," Holtz says. "And in cases when a child's levels are too high or too low, the app will alert parents so proper measures can be taken."

Holtz says that about 20 out of 100,000 children under age 10 and 19 out of 100,000 adolescents 10 to 19 years of age will be diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes each year. She adds that the ADA recommends the gradual transition to self-management during middle and high school years, and that the effective transition can offset prolonged or serious health consequences.

"Dr. Holtz is passionate about this research and I know the grant will make a difference in these families' lives," says Prabu David, dean of the MSU ComArtSci. "The research done by our ComArtSci staff creates new breakthroughs daily for many different communities, and I am confident this project will do wonderful things for the Type-1 diabetes community."

The three-year $590,544 grant from the ADA will support development, testing and launch of the app. Holtz is also looking to develop a portfolio of apps and games to enhance communication in various health arenas.

Holtz’s team consists of specialists in the field of diabetes and communication and includes Shelia Cotten, Ph.D., Denise Hershey, Ph.D., RN, FNP-BC, Amanda Holmstrom, Ph.D., Amol Pavangadkar, M.B.A., M.A. and Katharine Murray, M.A., from MSU; Julie Dunneback, MSN, APRN, BC, CPNP, CDE, and Arpita Vyas, M.D., from Sparrow Health Systems; Michael Wood, M.D., from the University of Michigan Medical School; and Joshua Richman, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Holtz holds a bachelor's in telecommunications and a doctorate in media and information studies from MSU, as well as her master's in information systems from the London School of Economics.

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AD+PR Faculty Rate Super Bowl Commercials

Posted on: February 8, 2016

Super Bowl ad votingA commercial for Prius in which a team of bank robbers used the car to elude police earned the top grade in the Michigan State University Department of Advertising + Public Relations’ list of best commercials aired during this year’s Super Bowl.

This marked the 19th year in a row the MSU faculty have rated the Super Bowl commercials.

“Prius was a surprise winner that just floored the faculty,” said Advertising + Public Relations Instructor Robert Kolt, who organized the event. “It featured an exciting chase with lots of twists and turns. And it included four men in a car not normally driven by men.”

Taking second place was a Doritos spot in which a baby, via an ultrasound, craved the snack his father is eating.

Third through 10th places for ads included:

  • Honda Ridgeline, which featured a flock of singing sheep.
  • Audi, which featured astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
  • Tied for fifth was a Snickers commercial in which actor Willem Dafoe morphs into Marilyn Monroe, and a T-Mobile spot in which Steve Harvey re-lives his Miss Universe gaffe.
  • Sixth was a spot for avocados that were on display in an alien museum.
  • Seventh was a TurboTax commercial in which Anthony Hopkins was not selling out.
  • Eighth place was a Budweiser commercial in which actress Helen Mirren issued a stern warning against drunk driving.
  • Ninth place was a Heinz ketchup ad that featured dachshunds in hot dog buns.
  • Tenth was a spot by small business Death Wish Coffee.

Super Bowl ad rating iclicker“A good ad reinforces the brand,” said Advertising + Public Relations Professor Patricia Huddleston, who attended the event. “It has a clear message that people can take away and has something memorable about it.”

This year, the MSU faculty came up with a number of new categories for the ads:

  • Prius and Doritos were judged the “most creative” commercial.
  • An Acura ad featuring the music of Van Halen won the award for “best production.”
  • The “funniest” commercial was Doritos.
  • Heinz ketchup was deemed the “most memorable.”
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Super Bowl. Super Commercials. Super High Prices.

Posted on: January 25, 2016

super bowl 2016

When Michigan State University Advertising + Public Relations Instructor Robert Kolt says the 2016 Super Bowl is going to be a good game, he’s not talking football. He’s talking the commercials that will air during the game.

Kolt said this year’s lineup of commercials is about as diverse as it gets, with everything from cars to beer to avocados to a company that is buying a 30-second spot that will then be used by a small business that could never come close to buying a Super Bowl ad.

And it’s no wonder. The average cost of a 30-second spot this year: $5 million.

“Buying an ad in the Super Bowl is usually a pretty good investment,” Kolt said. “That’s because it delivers the largest audience across all demographics than any other broadcast program in America. About 150 million viewers.”

Auto companies will be a big player during this year’s game, including General Motors, which sat out last year. Kolt said GM will use the time to advertise one of its re-designed Buick products.

Bob Kolt Super Bowl

Instructor Robert Kolt

Perhaps the biggest spender this year is Anheuser-Busch, which is the exclusive beer advertiser for the game. Kolt said the beer maker usually buys as many as a dozen 30-second commercials.

Software maker Intuit is holding its second annual competition in which small companies vie for a 30-second spot during the game. Companies submit stories about their businesses and why they should be showcased.

This year also marks the 19th consecutive year that MSU’s Department of Advertising + Public Relations faculty will gather to watch and rate the Super Bowl commercials.

"There are many variables that help make a good Super Bowl ad," Kolt said. “MSU experts look for high-quality production, a clear product identification and message, and whether an ad makes a sale long after the game. We like the use of new technology in an integrated campaign."

The event starts at 6 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 7, at the Pizza House, 4790 S. Hagadorn Road, East Lansing. Results will be available shortly after the game ends.

“These ratings are done in an environment where we end up discussing the ads with other faculty, hearing the critiques of our colleagues and learning from those perspectives,” said Jef Richards, Chair of the Department of Advertising + Public Relations. “We do have fun, but we’re learning at the same time, and we’re then able to take that experience back to the classroom.”

New this year is the #MSUperbowl Twitter Touchdown Award. MSU's Department of Advertising + Public Relations wants you to play in the rating game. Tell us how you feel about advertisements throughout the game by using #MSUperbowl. We will gather all comments and report the winner to a national audience.

This year’s Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers will air on CBS. Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m.

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Traditional Holiday Shopping Days, Gifts May Be Changing

Posted on: November 17, 2015

pat-huddlestonWith the continuing popularity of online buying, coupled with holiday shoppers’ tendency to buy early, will Thanksgiving shopping and Black Friday soon become things of the past?

Patricia Huddleston, Professor in the Department of Advertising + Public Relations, said online sales are predicted to increase by about 16 percent this year and could comprise nearly 12 percent of total holiday sales.

“About 44 percent of shoppers will browse and buy online,” Huddleston said. “As a result, predicted foot traffic to brick and mortar stores will decline by about 8 percent.”

Some of the gifts on people’s lists could be a bit different this year. For example, “athleisure” apparel – athletic apparel worn as casual clothes – and drones. Yes, drones.

Huddleston said it’s predicted that as many as 1 million drones could be sold as holiday gifts this year. She said Best Buy is selling them, as well as amazon.com. Starting price: Around $900.

As for Black Friday, its impact is becoming more diffused because sales events during Thanksgiving week continue into Cyber Monday. Nearly 30 percent of holiday shoppers have completed their buying by Thanksgiving, she said.

Despite that, many stores will be open on Thanksgiving.

“This is due to competitive pressure,” Huddleston said. “If Macy’s is going to be open, then Kohl’s will be open too.”

She said according to a survey by www.bestblackfriday.com, about 47 percent of people thought stores should not be open on Thanksgiving.

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Faculty Members Named Sustainability Fellows

Posted on: August 3, 2015

Sustainability banner

Two College of Communication Arts and Sciences faculty members have been named 2015 MSU Sustainability Fellows for their environmental sustainability-themed online survey of MSU undergraduate students.

John Besley, Associate Professor and Ellis N. Brandt Chair in Public Relations in the Department of Advertising + Public Relations, and Bruno Takahashi, Assistant Professor with a joint appointment in the School of Journalism and Department of Communication and Research Director of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, worked on the initial sustainability survey along with Adam Zwickle, Assistant Professor in the Environmental Science and Policy Program and the School of Criminal Justice in the College of Social Science.

The survey includes questions gauging environmental sustainability and scientific knowledge, norms and practices surrounding sustainability related behaviors, and attitudes toward environmental responsibility. The plan is to make the survey an annual project.

bruno-takahashi feature

Bruno Takahashi

“The Sustainability Office, specially Ann Erhardt (Director of MSU Sustainability), has recognized the importance of evidence-based communication. In that sense, we are hoping the results of the survey will help inform the communication initiatives at MSU,” Takahashi said. “From a research perspective, there are very few empirical studies examining educational settings that attempt to understand the factors that explain the engagement in sustainability behaviors by students. We are trying to push the envelope in the study of environmentalism, behaviors, and well being among students.”

Data from the initial survey was collected at the end of the spring 2015 semester. Students were randomly selected to participate with more than 2,800 completed surveys received.

The research team plans to produce a report for the Sustainability Office with some recommendations and are working on two academic studies, one on the relationship between values and environmental behaviors, and another one examining differences in environmental behaviors based on cohorts (freshman, sophomore, etc.).

“The assumption for the second one is that students' attitudes, knowledge about science and the environment, perception of social norms, among other factors change as they move forward with their degrees, and that this affects behaviors,” Takahashi said.

Plans are already underway for a 2016 survey as well as identifying areas for targeted campaigns.

john-besley_feature

John Besley

“We want to make the survey an annual thing so that we can use it to track the impact of the college experience on students’ views and behavior,” Besley said.

MSU Sustainability’s fellowship program uses the MSU campus as a laboratory to address issues related to greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy, waste reduction, water conservation, sustainable transportation, education, engagement, social responsibility and more.

The program funds research projects that focus on aspects of environmental responsibility and sustainability specific to MSU.

"The work is driven by real challenges faced by the university," Erhardt said. “The fellowship program connects researchers with campus decision-makers in order to effectively plan for the future sustainability of MSU's campus."

For more information on these and other sustainability efforts, see the MSU Sustainability website.

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‘Hillary Doctrine’ examines treatment of women as national-security issue

Posted on: June 26, 2015

patricia-leidl-main

Is the violence against women a threat to the security of the United States? According to a new book co-authored by faculty members from MSU's College of Communication Arts and Sciences and Texas A&M University, it is.

“The Hillary Doctrine: Sex and American Foreign Policy” argues that far from being a “soft” foreign policy issue, the subjugation of women worldwide undermines global prospects for peace and is therefore a direct threat to U.S. national security.

This was a position first articulated by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“In societies that permit and encourage violence against women, men develop a willingness to harm, kill and enslave others,” said Patricia Leidl, an international communications adviser and instructor in MSU’s Department of Advertising and Public Relations and School of Journalism. “When male bonding intensifies as competing groups vie for power, men see women’s rights and freedoms as threats to their own legitimacy.”

Co-authoring the book was Valerie Hudson, a professor in the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.

“Nationalism is strongly gendered,” Hudson said. “Men typically build a violent nationalism on a foundation of misogyny, and women’s rights become a battleground in resulting conflicts.

“That’s why women’s rights come under attack immediately after regime overthrow and why women are often explicit targets of war.”

Earlier this year, “The Hillary Doctrine” was nominated by the Kirkus Reviews as one of its top nonfiction picks of 2015. It said the book offers “a compelling argument for women’s rights” and is a “sound study that carries an urgent message.” It has also been nominated for a National Book Award.

Before coming to MSU, Leidl was a Canadian journalist with the Vancouver Sun and the Vancouver Province newspapers, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and CTV. During the past 16 years, she has worked with various United Nations agencies and, more recently, advising various USAID-funded projects in Afghanistan and Yemen. She formerly headed the communications department at the Geneva-based HIV/AIDS Department of the World Health Organization, and was senior editor/media adviser with the New York-based United Nations Population Fund.

Hudson is an expert on international security and foreign policy analysis. In 2009, “Foreign Policy” named her one of the Top 100 Most Influential Global Thinkers, and the International Studies Association named her a Distinguished Scholar of Foreign Policy Analysis. Most recently, she received an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship. As part of her efforts to shine a light on the treatment of women worldwide, Hudson developed a nation-by-nation database, http://womanstats.org, which has been used by a variety of agencies, including the United Nations and the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

For more information on “The Hillary Doctrine,” visit http://cup.columbia.edu/book/the-hillary-doctrine/9780231164924.

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PR Instructor Named PACE Maker of the Year

Posted on: May 14, 2015

Andy Corner PACE Maker of the YearAndy Corner, Instructor of Public Relations and Writing for the Department of Advertising + Public Relations, was awarded the top honor presented to an individual by the Central Michigan Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (CMPRSA) – The PACE Maker of the Year Award.

Corner received this prestigious award for his significant contributions to the PR profession and was honored at the CMPRSA’s annual awards ceremony April 30 at the Greater Lansing Association of REALTORS.

"Being named PACE Maker is a huge honor," Corner said. "I have spent most of my career working behind the scenes helping individuals and organizations manage their reputations and advance their agendas. Peer recognition of this magnitude was unexpected and is extremely gratifying."

Corner has been a member of the ComArtSci faculty for nine years. He also is an alumnus of the college, having earned both his master's degree in Public Relations Management ('88) and a bachelor's degree in Communication ('86) from MSU.

Last year, he was awarded ComArtSci’s Faculty Impact Award, which is presented each year to a current faculty member whose dedication to teaching and mentoring has made a significant and enduring impact on the lives and careers of students through classroom excellence.

The PACE Awards are mid-Michigan’s highest honor of public relations activities and are awarded annually by CMPRSA to public relations professionals who –in the judgment of their national peers – have successfully addressed a contemporary issue using exemplary professional skill, creativity and resourcefulness, with the PACE Maker of the Year Award being the top honor presented to an individual.

Last year’s PACE Maker of the Year Award also went to a ComArtSci alumnus. John Truscott, B.A. Communication ’88, President and Principal of Truscott Rossman, was the 2014 recipient of the PACE Maker of the Year Award.

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Instructor’s Book Among Top Nonfiction Picks for 2015

Posted on: April 22, 2015

patricia-leidl-main

A book co-authored by a College of Communication Arts and Sciences faculty member that examines what is known as the “Hillary Doctrine” has been nominated by Kirkus Reviews as one of its top nonfiction picks for 2015.

Co-authored by Patricia Leidl, Instructor in the Department of Advertising + Public Relations and the School of Journalism, “The Hillary Doctrine: Sex and American Foreign Policy” delves into decades of research that shows that the subjugation of women poses a direct threat to U.S. national security.

The other author of the book is Valerie Hudson, Professor and George H.A. Bush Chair at Texas A&M University.

“The nomination is the result of 30 months of hard work and the marriage of years of high-quality research on the part of my writing partner, with the narrative power of on-the-ground journalism and great timing,” Leidl said. “We’re actually pretty amazed. It isn’t often that an academic imprint attracts this kind of attention.”

The book argues that far from being ‘soft’ foreign policy issue, the poor treatment of women worldwide poses a threat to global prospects for peace and therefore a direct threat to U.S. national security – a position first articulated by former Secretary of State and current presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton.

According to Kirkus, “The Hillary Doctrine,” which will be released by Columbia University Press on Tuesday, June 30, offers “a compelling argument for women’s rights” and is a “sound study that carries an urgent message.”

It notes that the authors “argue persuasively that in societies that permit and encourage violence against women, men develop a willingness to harm, kill and enslave others.”

The book has drawn praise from New York Times Columnist Nicolas Kristof, activist and author Robin Morgan, and former Ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq Ryan Crocker.

Before coming to MSU, Leidl was a journalist who spent 16 years working with various United Nations agencies and, more recently, advising various USAID-funded projects in Afghanistan and Yemen.

She formerly headed the Communications Department at the Geneva-based HIV/AIDS Department of the World Health Organization and was Senior Editor/Media Advisor with the New York-based United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), where she also was Managing Editor of the UNFPA State of World Populations Report and Editorial Director of the Vancouver-based Human Security Report.

Kirkus Reviews, published twice a month, gives previews of books prior to their publication. Kirkus reviews more than 7,000 titles each year.

A digital preview of “The Hillary Doctrine: Sex and American Foreign Policy” can be found on Amazon.

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Making Unit Pricing More Consumer Friendly

Posted on: March 23, 2015

anna-mcalister-main

Savvy shoppers often look at the "per-unit" price of an item to determine if they are getting the best bang for their buck. Unfortunately, the per-unit price often works against them and may provide confusing or even incorrect information.

Anna McAlister, Assistant Professor in the Department of Advertising + Public Relations, is part of a team of industry representatives, consumer groups and academics commissioned by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, to draft a Unit Pricing Guide that offers a set of recommendations to make per-unit pricing more consumer friendly.

"The problem is that per-unit pricing is often not consistent from store to store or even within a single store," McAlister said. “And sometimes the information they provide is just plain wrong.”

The guide provides information about the best practice requirements for unit pricing of pre-packaged commodities and includes recommendations to improve the accuracy and usability of unit pricing information. One goal of the guide is to provide uniformity across all states and types of stores.

For the guide, McAlister conducted research to determine what was missing from unit-pricing labels and how to correct it.

“Until our team started working on these projects, no one had been doing any research on the layout of unit-pricing labels,” McAlister said. “Data was needed before anyone could publish a best-practice guide.”

The major problems with unit pricing include inconsistency with some items having a per-unit price while others don’t, signage that is difficult to read, and inaccuracies in per-unit price.

One way unit pricing can be more user friendly is to have consistency in how prices are presented on labels.

“The retail price should be on the left, while the per-unit price should be on the right,” McAlister said. “It only makes sense, as we read from left to right.”

Using a consistent font size and ensuring that numbers are readable are other ways to make it easier.

“What we’re saying is the block in which the unit price is displayed should have ‘maximum contrast,’” McAlister said. “We recommend black on white or other combinations such as black on yellow.”

Obviously, changes that make unit pricing more readable are helpful to the consumer. And while it may initially nibble at a retailer’s profit, in the long run it will pay dividends for the business.

“Consumers like it,” McAlister said. “Yes, it’s labor intensive for the stores. But the payoff can be increased brand loyalty and a better relationship with the customer.”

Some states require per-unit pricing, while others, including Michigan, do not. The guide is designed to assist retailers in states that do not require unit pricing but who want to provide that service for their customers.

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