Digital media tailored upon the cognitive and visual characteristics of the user prove to be more effective

Digital media are now everywhere. Increasingly our entertainment options, work flow, and even interpersonal communications are delivered digitally and on-demand. The increased pervasiveness and integration of digital media into our daily lives open the possibility of combining the benefits of high-reach media-based interventions with individually oriented, “tailored” information. “Tailoring” refers to the process of adjusting the form and content of a message to fit certain characteristics of the message’s audience. Traditionally, tailoring was done ahead of time, during the design and production of messages.  For example, commercial advertising spokespersons would be selected to match the gender or age of the intended viewers. With the advent of digital media, however, tailoring can be done instantaneously, at the time a particular individual is actually viewing or listening to a message. I am exploring the potential for this type of tailoring in my own research. With the rapid development of digital-tailoring technology, tailoring a program to the specific demographics, needs, and interests of the viewer is becoming both more sophisticated and less expensive.  But what are the most important components to tailor a message on? To answer this question, I conducted an experiment that manipulated the visual and textual content of a website with a national sample of Americans.  I found that tailoring increased the effectiveness and that there was a dosage response.  I also found that by tailoring on ethnicity (that is, by showing a single photo of a same-ethnic-background spokesperson), one increases the effectiveness of the message. These results reinforce the persuasive efficacy of tailoring and help explain the role that visual ethnic cues play in enhancing the persuasiveness of a message. In the future I hope to further examine the components of tailoring, particularly in conjunction with technological advances that permit instant tailoring.

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