The Multimedia Challenge


Multimedia has changed the face of the health promotion game without question. Some may still feel like they are tumbling down the rabbit hole, but the advantages of multimedia technology are too numerous to ignore.  The affordability and accessibility of photo and video sharing technology has empowered the average, technologically illiterate individual to create and share health campaigns and information. Two of the multimedia websites that I explored this week (YouTube and Instagram) enable users to easily upload videos and photos for the general public and/or friends/followers to view, like, and comment on.

Heather Mansfield’s book Social Media for Social Good discusses the various uses of multimedia sites such as YouTube and Flickr for non-profits. However, multimedia use has exploded in popularity and prevalence since the 2012 publishing date of this text and has surpassed many of the proposed uses described in the book. One clearly outdated recommendation described in the book is that all non-profits have a digital camcorder. I had to laugh as Heather Mansfield very accurately predicts that “smartphones and tablets will probably evolve to include higher-quality video records and digital cameras in the next few years, possibly rendering pocket camcorders and digital cameras obsolete.” She was spot on. Take a stroll down the street and you are bound to see somebody posting to their Instagram via smartphone or recording a 10-second video to send via Snapchat.

I myself have recently made use of the excellent quality of tablet digital cameras and the ease of uploading videos to sites such as Vimeo. The best part is that these photos and videos  often contain very thought provoking, health promoting content. An excellent example that I came across when exploring YouTube’s website is the “Ice Bucket Challenge.”

Odds are that you or somebody you know have participated in this “challenge”. The Ice Bucket Challenge, also called the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, involves dumping a bucket of ice water on someone’s head to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and encourage donations to research. This health campaign quickly went viral and was so wildly successful that you get 3,730,000 results when searching on YouTube.


The Ice Bucket Challenge is just one of many viral health campaigns that have been made possible because of the ease and accessibility of multimedia sharing tools via the internet.

So why was this campaign so successful? Well I have a few ideas and I challenge all of you to find other examples of multimedia campaigns that use the same tools to spread a public health message.

1) Keep it simple. The Ice Bucket Challenge was great because almost everyone can do it.

2) Continued innovation. Slight modifications of the campaign made by individual multimedia users continued to spark interest in the campaign and increased awareness of other public health issues. Some modifications I came across were dumping an empty bucket over somebody’s head to raise awareness of the drought or dumping rice over a child’s head instead because of the child’s cardiovascular condition.

3) Interactive. Rather than simply posting a health campaign and asking your followers to “like” or “share” the link, this campaign used multimedia and invited everyone to upload their own video to assist in the promotion of awareness regarding ALS.

4) Celebrity endorsement. Want to see Oprah take the Ice Bucket Challenge? Well all you have to do is YouTube it. Celebrity endorsements of the public health campaign helped to maintain interest in the cause and to increase donations with total donations reaching $100 million.

5) Fun. This one is pretty self-explanatory.

Multimedia sites give us all the necessary tools to create public health campaigns and to reach millions of viewers. It is almost too easy. Challenge accepted?


3 thoughts on “The Multimedia Challenge

  1. Taylor,
    Those are great tips that can really help a public health message go viral. I think the interactive part is key since giving someone something to do right away makes them much more likely to get involved and get their friends involved. The celebrity endorsement ties right back in to the structure of social networks in “Here Comes Everybody” that the most connected people are key in connecting others, and this can help spread a video/message to many people quickly.
    Great post!

  2. It’s interesting to see how quickly things become outdated, the use of cellphones and tablets as photo devices has really taken off. I looked at this assignment from the perspective of what are the elements in the multimedia display that helped garner interest. Your approach looking at the public health messaging is also an important way to look at this assignment. I really like the pictures you chose. I wonder if they would have greater impact if they were larger.

  3. Really really nice post Taylor
    I love your example of the ALS ice bucket challenge – I agree that this was a great simple campaign that had all the elements to allow it to become one of the most successful multimedia campaigns I have heard of.
    Great featured pic – very visually appealing.
    Again, as usual very nice, relate-able language.
    Really like the stepwise approach you describe to make your multimedia campaign go viral.

    Trying to think of some “substantive and constructive” feedback – maybe more pictures?? I want to see Oprah and a host of celebs dunked with water ! 🙂 That would be the only thing I can think of.

    Great post!

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