Experimental pretesting of public health campaigns: A case study

J.R.D. Whittingham*, R.A.C. Ruiter, F. Zimbile, G.J. Kok

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The aim of the present study is to demonstrate the merits of evaluating new public health campaign materials in the developmental phase using an experimental design. This is referred to as experimental pretesting. In practice, most new materials are tested only after they have been distributed using nonexperimental or quasi-experimental designs. In cases where materials are pretested prior to distribution, pretesting is usually done using qualitative research methods such as focus groups. Although these methods are useful, they cannot reliably predict the effectiveness of new campaign materials in a developmental phase. Therefore, we suggest when pretesting new materials, not only qualitative research methods but also experimental research methods must be used. The present study discusses an experimental pretest study of new campaign materials intended for distribution in a national sexually transmitted infection (STI) AIDS prevention campaign in the Netherlands. The campaign material tested was the storyline of a planned television commercial on safe sex. A storyboard that consisted of drawings and text was presented to members of the target population, namely, students between the ages of 14 and 16 enrolled in vocational schools. Results showed positive effects on targeted determinants of safe sexual behavior. The advantages, practical implications, and limitations of experimental pretesting are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)216-229
JournalJournal of Health Communication : International Perspectives
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008


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