A Randomized Trial of Theory-Informed Appeals for Organ Donor Registration Using Internet Advertisements

Abstract [from journal]

Introduction: Many people do not register as organ donors. We developed 5 different brief appeals for organ donation that were disseminated online. The content was informed by theories of behavior change and studies of the specific cognitive barriers to organ donor registration.

Methods: One message was a persuasive narrative about a transplant recipient. Another message promoted the idea that organ donor registration is a social norm. The knowledge-based message communicated that 1 donor could improve the lives of 50 people. The message on reciprocity offered a free organ donation wristband, whether or not the participant registered as a donor. The message on control simply encouraged organ donation. Using Google AdWords, the messages were deployed randomly as banners of different sizes on diverse online sites and carried a link to an organ donor registration site. We measured clicks, page visits, and organ donor registrations.

Results: There were 5,156,048 impressions and 25,001 total clicks, a click-through rate of 0.49%. The messages on control and reciprocity both had the highest click-through rates of 0.51%. A total of 152 unique individuals requested wristbands and there were 52 total organ donor registration events. The message on reciprocity had the highest number of organ donor registrations (n = 18).

Conclusion: Online organ donation messages rapidly generated substantial attention through clicks, but no message led to a meaningful number of organ donor registrations. Future research may focus on effectively capturing the attention of viewers through social networks or other convenient online venues with less competition for attention than Internet banners.