Cost-effective and efficient methods to attract people to Web-based health behavior interventions need to be identified. Traditional print methods including leaflets, posters, and newspaper advertisements remain popular despite the expanding range of Web-based advertising options that have the potential to reach larger numbers at lower cost.
This study evaluated the effectiveness of multiple Web-based and print-based methods to attract people to a Web-based physical activity intervention.
A range of print-based (newspaper advertisements, newspaper articles, letterboxing, leaflets, and posters) and Web-based (Facebook advertisements, Google AdWords, and community calendars) methods were applied to attract participants to a Web-based physical activity intervention in Australia. The time investment, cost, number of first time website visits, the number of completed sign-up questionnaires, and the demographics of participants were recorded for each advertising method.
A total of 278 people signed up to participate in the physical activity program. Of the print-based methods, newspaper advertisements totaled AUD $145, letterboxing AUD $135, leaflets AUD $66, posters AUD $52, and newspaper article AUD $3 per sign-up. Of the Web-based methods, Google AdWords totaled AUD $495, non-targeted Facebook advertisements AUD $68, targeted Facebook advertisements AUD $42, and community calendars AUD $12 per sign-up. Although the newspaper article and community calendars cost the least per sign-up, they resulted in only 17 and 6 sign-ups respectively. The targeted Facebook advertisements were the next most cost-effective method and reached a large number of sign-ups (n=184). The newspaper article and the targeted Facebook advertisements required the lowest time investment per sign-up (5 and 7 minutes respectively). People reached through the targeted Facebook advertisements were on average older (60 years vs 50 years, P<.001) and had a higher body mass index (32 vs 30, P<.05) than people reached through the other methods.
Overall, our results demonstrate that targeted Facebook advertising is the most cost-effective and efficient method at attracting moderate numbers to physical activity interventions in comparison to the other methods tested. Newspaper advertisements, letterboxing, and Google AdWords were not effective. The community calendars and newspaper articles may be effective for small community interventions.