English论文模板 – Critical Multimodal Discourse Analysis of ‘Doing It’ Health Promotion Campaign


       The HIV epidemic is a global health issue that continues to affect millions across the world. Globally, it is estimated that slightly more than 36 million people live with the virus, more than two-thirds of them living in poor and developing countries (Wright & Carnes, 2016). Of these people, 1.8 million are children (Wright & Carnes, 2016). Another astounding fact about HIV is that a third of the people living with it do not know as they have not been tested (Mccree, Jones, & O’leary, 2010). In the United States alone, slightly more than 1.1 million people live with HIV as of 2016 (Wright & Carnes, 2016). However, one out of seven people out of the estimated 1.1 million people do not know that they have the virus. In 2014 alone, just a year before the health promotion campaign that is the subject of this paper was launched, 37,600 new people were infected (Mccree, Jones, & O’leary, 2010). Of all the demography in the US, gay and bisexual men lead with prevalence and new rates of infection, particularly African Americans. At the same time, people from the southern states accounted for the highest prevalence and new infection at 50% (Wright & Carnes, 2016).

       Realizing the increase in the rates of new infection around 2014, the Act against AIDS launched a health promotion campaign dubbed ‘Doing It’. Simply, the campaign encourages adult aged 18 to 64 to come out and get tested to know their HIV status (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). The advertisements feature people from diverse backgrounds encouraging Americans to come out and get tested to know their HIV status. The people featured as actors in the advertisement are derived from diverse racial, social, and economic background in the hope that they would appeal to as many people as possible (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). The promotion components include national and local advertisement, community and partner engagement, campaign, and promotion materials.

       Characteristically, health promotions campaign appeal to fear and scare topics as people are inherently fearful of death or being sick. The technique, however, has been repeatedly labeled as problematic and ineffective (Soames, 1998, Bennett, & Murphy, 1997, Gieszinger, 2001). Probably aware of the failure of scare tactics, ‘Doing It’ used a different approach that entails the use of celebrities and people the audience could identify with for education purposes (Good & Abraham, 2011, Witte, Meyer & Martell, 2001). This paper is simply a critical multimodal discourse analysis of three ‘Doing It’ campaign posters forthwith referred as appendix 1, 2, and 3 in this paper. The research questions to help unpack these three images therefore are:

  1. What strategies does this health promotional campaign use?
  2. What visual aspects are used?
  3. What language features are used?
  4. Do the language and visual features make the promotion more effective?

‘Doing It’: Critical Multimodal Discourse Analysis (Literature Review)   

An Overview of the Three Images

The first poster image, forthwith referred to as appendix 1, features a middle aged African American actor called Jerome “Ro” Brooks”, sharply and elegantly dressed in a black suit, white shirt, and a pocket tie (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). The background is bright sky blue and the surface he is stepping on is white. The man covers nearly two-thirds of the poster, making him the most conspicuous part of the poster. He has a smile on his face to complete the executive look. Next to the man are words in quotation marks, most likely the words of the man proclaiming why he is doing the test, his name, and profession. Below the quoted speech is the slogan of the promotional campaign: “I’m doing it-Testing for HIV” (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015, pp. 1), followed by the hash tag of the campaign: “Doing it”, and finally the names of the organization conducting the campaign.

The second poster, forthwith referred to as appendix 2, features two white men, Benjamin and Christopher, one mounted on the back of the other in what appears like a parking lot (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). It would appear that the two are friends, probably gay, judging by the proximity to each other, their easy smiles, and ease with each other. Like in the first poster, the two occupy two-thirds of the poster space, leaving the remaining third to their message and the campaign slogan.

The third poster, forthwith referred to as appendix, features four women, African American in racial orientation and Asia (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). They are relaxed and with easy smiles. Three of the women are dressed in dressed, two sat and two standing. Like in the previous two poster images, the image of the women takes up two thirds of the poster space while their message and the campaign slogan takes up the remaining space. The following pages will critically analyze the poster images from a multimodal discourse perspective and explore their import and effectiveness.

A Critical Analysis

Audience analysis is a vitally important aspect before undertaking any promotion (Rodham, 2010). One must pause and reflect not just why they are making the advertisement but also for whom. If the target audience is young people, it makes more sense to feature actors and content that the young people can identify with (Abraham & Kools, 2011, Laverack, 2014). The ‘Doing It’ posters that are the subject of this paper target 18-65 year old in the United States (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). Importantly, the health promotion posters are made to reflect not just the ethnic diversity but also the reality of HIV prevalence and new infection.

A salient aspect of the three health promotional aspects is the deliberate use of the actors and what they represent (Beasley & Danesi, 2002, Dixey, 2012). In the first poster, the actor is an African American man, likely a middle-aged, middle class working man. The two identities, racial and being a working/executive person are important in relation to the audience they appeal to and the message (Machin & Mayr, 2012, Noguchi, Albarracin, Durantini, Glasman, 2007). The message is clearly targeted to Black working people who, as shown in recent statistics, are among the leading people with new HIV infection. The actor therefore appeal to the particular constituency that it must go out and get tested as that is the first step to enable one make needed lifestyle adjustment and seek medical help to lead normal lives.

The second poster image is equally effective in the target of the message. Benjamin and Christopher are white, likely gay men. They are visibly young, casually dressed in a vest, torn bottom, and shot sleeve blazer. They represent millions of young Americans that are at a high risk of new HIV infection as they do not know their status (Corcoran, 2013, Lucas & lloyd, 2005). Importantly, the advertisement targets the gay and bisexual young people who lead the pack in new HIV infections. Both Christopher and Benjamin are a reminder to the young, gay and bisexual Americans that getting tested is good for young people.

The third poster photo, featuring four women, is equally effective at targeting a particular audience. The four women are African and Asia, minority ethnic groups at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder and highly susceptible to new infections. The women’s identity as minorities, first as women and then as African and Asian Americans, help to establish a rapport with these vulnerable communities. Their designation as community activists for First Ladies Health Initiative also puts them at a unique position to understand HIV issues. They are therefore credible authorities in the matters of HIV in addition to representing their minority identity.

A favorite technique of health promotions is to use celebrities and authorities to pass across a message (Bracht, 1999, Barkway, 2009, Good & Abraham, 2011). Celebrities have a large following especially young people who identify with the said celebrity. Use of celebrities operates at the psychological level where people, without even realizing it, buy into things that famous people are doing or saying (Mcmurray & Clendon, 2011, Maibach & Parrott, 1995, Rees, 1995). Similarly, authorities are used to lend strength to advertisement message ad people believe them. A health promotion message being broadcast by a medical professional would for instance have an effect at the cognitive level and affect the consumers’ decision to buy into what the authority is saying. In the case of an authority and celebrity however, credibility is a very important aspect. One must be seen to be credible to be believable and influence people.

Appendix one1 makes good use of a celebrity by using Jerome “Ro” Brooks, an actor, musician and performer, in the campaign poster. The Baltimore born actor is a credible, famous person that many young people identify with (Griffin, 2000). The fact that he is from Baltimore, a neighborhood dominated by the African American community, immediately strikes a chord with many from this community who, according to statistics, are among the leading group in new infections. But Jerome’s executive look also appeals to more than the Blacks living in poor areas. It also appeals to Black and White working class who, despite social consciousness, rarely get tested for HIV.

Importantly, Jerome’s acting career has made him a household name in the United States and globally. His starring role in the films Transformers and Revenge of the Fallen made him an instant sensation. Many young people in the US and across the world identify with and his word on anything is taken serious. As a person, Jerome is inspiring as he emerged from the inner city of Baltimore to the pinnacle of America’s film industry. The decision to have him as ambassador of ‘Doing It’ campaign was therefore wise as he is credible, famous role model.

Appendix three has subtle elements of use of authority to lend credence to a message though not in the traditional sense of the word. The four men on the photo are community activists for a health initiative (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). Although their profession is not stated, by implication, they could be health professionals. At the cognitive level therefore, they lend credibility to the message that people should come out and get tested.

Another salient aspect of the ‘Doing It’ campaign posters is the absence of scare and fear tactics. When it comes to health promotion campaign, fear is the most used fear emotions. Smoking cessation campaigns for instance feature actors in bad health staring at death (Moyse, 2009). The subtle message is that you will die if you do not stop smoking. In the diabetes health promotional campaign in UK, the use of fear is manifest (Brookes & Harvey, 2015). Despite the popularity of use of fear in health promotion posters, a growing body of research reveals that the technique is problematic and ineffective. Brookes & Harvey (2015), while analyzing the earlier mentioned UK diabetes campaign, fault the technique and calls for more positive reinforcement methods to encourage life style change.

HIV health promotion and advertisement campaigns have traditionally used the scare and fear technique. Any mention of these advertisements elicits in the minds of many people images of emaciated people on the verge of dying (Moyse, 2009). The image of people so ravaged by the deadly virus such that the only remaining and recognizable aspect is their skeletons are common (Higgins & Norton, 2009). Moreover, the messages emblazoned on such advertisements are equally scary. These images and messages send chills down the spine of many people who, in the fear of looking like the people in the campaign posters, change their sexual behavior. With time however, such images have been discredited as not only ineffective but also counterproductive (Brookes & Harvey, 2015). The images increase stigmatization of people with HIV and end up not just hurting the wall against HIV but entrenching poor attitude towards the epidemic and those affected.

The three poster posters that are the subject of this analysis have desisted from the use of fear and scare tactics and instead adopted a positive, informative technique. By looking at the appearance, demeanor, and words on the posters, one gets nothing but positivity (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). In appendix one, the Black actor appears bold, elegant, and happy. He wears a smile and exudes positive energy. His elegance and positivity is only rivaled by the bluish and white background from where he steps out. Unlike the sad, crying and dying actors in many health promotion advertisements, the man here is full of life.

In appendix 2, the two white men are anything but sad and scary. They are full of full, one mounted on the other’s back and looking into the camera smiling (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). They are casually dressed as if to downplay the seriousness of their message. The photo is colored and bright, a sign of cheerfulness and life that is strikingly absent from advertisements that appeal to fear. The two are in what appear to be a car park, unbothered in their familiar territory. In the background cars, buildings and trees can be seen, symbolizing that HIV is not anything to worry about as to stop your life. The combination of green and a lively background represents live and its vibrancy and diffuses any fear that one may have.

Appendix three also shows women in their natural form, relaxed about life and smiling. If anyone of them has HIV, cancer, or is due to be auctioned, no one would tell from their photo. Their red top and dressing completes the set. Red is a warm color that shows enthusiasm (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). It helps not just to improve the atmosphere but eliminate fear. Despite their designation as community activists under a health program, none of them is serious or scary. The three images thus promote happiness, vibrancy, and enthusiasm about life.

The language of advertisement is another important factor that affects its effectiveness. Language covers the font size and color or the typology, the semiotics or meaning of words, and positioning of the message (Brookes & Harvey, 2015). An effective advertisement makes use of diverse techniques to achieve the influence it desires on the audience. Another important aspect as it relates to the use of language is the use of pronouns and choice of verbs (Bignell, 2002). Pronouns help to make the message personal while choice of verbs call the audience to action.

In appendix one, the choice and semiotics accentuate the theme of the health promotion without eliciting fear in the target audience. The written message starts with “I’m”, which gives the message a personal touch (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). The actor in the poster, Jerome Brooks, is speaking with the audience directly. The placement of the words within quotation marks further gives the message a sense that it is the actor speaking. Two particular verbs have been given manifest prominence in the poster, namely “doing” and “tested”. These two verbs are the most important ones in the advertisement because they call the audience to action and encourage them to take responsibility of their HIV status.

Words are very powerful in creating emotional connection between the target audience and the message. Appropriately, appendix one uses a particularly powerful message while walking the tight rope between sharing the reality of the HIV scourge without scaring the audience (Rootman, 2012). Jerome states: “I lost my sister to AIDS” (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015, pp. 2). These words, as casual as they appear, are deeply profound. First, they help create functional empathy between the actor and his audience. However, the poster does not allow the demise of his sister to come across as scary. Consciously, the advertisement is educating the public that death is the imminent outcome of not getting tested as it bars one from seeking medical help and making appropriate lifestyle adjustments.

Appendixes two and three have a similar personal connection with the audience through the use of pronouns, while still using the right verbs to amplify their messages. Both start with “we”, with appendix two underscoring their purpose. “We want” -emphasize “want”, and “we need”, all have a commanding tone. Simply, they tell young people that they do not have a choice but to get tested (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). In appendix three, the word “want”, and now “must”, are used. These words underscore that the audience should compulsorily be tested to know their status.

The other common word in at least two of the health promotional posters is “routine”. The word simply means something that is done often, or at regular intervals. In appendix one, the actor opines: “Make it a part of your routine” (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015, pp. 2). In appendix three, the actors say: “HIV testing should be a part of everyone’s routine” (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015, pp. 2). In appendix two, the word routine is not used but the fact of regularity of HIV testing is underscored in the statement: “We do it”. These three words suggest a degree of frequency that would even qualify to be a routine. Importantly, the b using the word “routine” or alluding to it, the health promotion is effective in amplifying the fact that testing is not a one-off event but something everyone should do regularly.

A common language technique in the three promotional adverts is the use of the declarative “I’M DOING IT”, or its close plural variation “WE’RE DOING IT”. The declarative in bold big letters helps give prominence to the cause of testing HIV (Lopata & Levy, 2003). Moreover, the authoritative uses of the words jolt the audience to the consciousness that they need to take responsibility for their own health and get tested.

The use of the declarative “WE’RE DOING IT” serves an additional purpose of calling for collective action in appendix two and three (Mcpherron & Ramanathan, 2011). In appendix two, the poster likely features a gay couple or partner and the underlying message is that both should be tested. As one in seven people in the US are infected but do not know their HIV status, it is important that couples are tested together. In appendix three, the “WE’RE”, combined with the photo of four women from diverse backgrounds, is an even bigger call for collaboration in ending the HIV epidemic and stigma. The four women emphasize the message when they collectively state: “Together we are united for healthier communities” (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015, pp. 2). The message underscores the fact that as long as some people are left behind, the war against HIV would never be won. If some people do not take responsibility and get tested, even those who have tested will be dragged down.

In calling people to take responsibility and get tested, the three posters have several things in common that enhance their effectiveness. First, all the actors in the three photos are looking at the audience. Eye contact plays an important role in persuasion as it inspires trust between the audience and the speaker (Fatihi, 1991, Health Service Executive, 2012). Additionally, the actors state clearly what they have done and what they want the audience to do. The actors have tested for HIV and would like the audience to equally take responsibility and get tested. Moreover, at the bottom of each advertisement, it is stated clearly about the nature of the testing. It promises to be fast, free, and confidential. The working class worried that the process may take up a lot of their time is assured that the process would not take too much time. Those from poor backgrounds worried that the test would compete with their basic needs are assured that they would not pay anything to get tested. Finally, all those scared that people will start gossiping about their status and cause them shame and stigma are assured that only them will know the results of their tests.


The paper entails an analysis of three health promotional campaign posters, the semiotics, use of visuals and effectiveness of the strategies employed in the poster. The three advertisements, called appendixes one, two, and three in the paper are to be found in the appendix section of this paper. As such, the methodology applied is qualitative and no data was collected in the field. Instead, the writer visited the website for ‘Doing It’ campaign and extracted three posters for this paper.

The theoretical framework used in this paper is the critical multimodal discourse analysis. The theory is a merger of the linguistic approach of discourse analysis and the emergent multimodality (Bignell, 2002). Discourse analysis is typically interested in language, its use, form, variants, words, and their meanings as they relate to each other (Linke, 2004). A discourse analyst would be interested for instance in the use of verbs, declaratives, and questions and the effect they have on the meaning and effectiveness of a communication strategy. The newer multimodality deals with analysis of language rendered through diverse modes such as images (Machin & Mayr, 2012). A critical multimodal discourse analysis is therefore a more holistic approach to studying language that is in conversational and image forms.

Data Analysis and Discussion

As no quantitative data was collected, what the paper entails is a critical multimodal discourse analysis covered adequately in the previous section. However, it is important to underscore that the theoretically approach led to several revelations. First, the three images to be found as appendixes one, two, and three are made using bright colors to create a positive and vibrant atmosphere. Appendix one features a middle aged, working African American man elegantly dressed. His identity is meant to resonate with the African American audience who lead in rates of new infection. Appendix two features a likely gay couple, who again represent a group highly vulnerable to new infections. Appendix three feature an even more diverse group of African American and Asia women who, like the actors in the other images, are bright and smiling in what is a departure from using fear and scare tactics in health promotional campaigns.


To recap, this paper has conducted a critical multimodal discourse analysis of three posters for the health promotional campaign dubbed ‘Doing It’. The campaign targeted to increase HIV testing as a way of curbing new infections. Strikingly, the semiotic and visual techniques used are not just effective but also a refreshing break from the common but discredited technique of using fear and scare tactics in health promotions. The images are effective in resonating with diverse audience and the message has appropriate language use to achieve a compelling health promotion campaign.

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