Our bodies are made to walk, jog, run, and jump. They are designed to move. VERB: It's what you do!

Dr. Marian Huhman
Assistant Professor
Joined the department in 2009

“VERB: It’s what you do!” If you are a current student at the University of Illinois, then chances are good that this tagline is familiar to you. From 2002 to 2006, the Verb Campaign targeted “tweens” from the age of 9-13 to be more physically active. You may remember the campaigns from television ads with big bold words such as “jump,” “swing,” and “run.” The campaign was successful in encouraging youth to engage in more physical activity. Dr. Huhman worked as a team member on this campaign – keep reading to learn about her role.

1. What got you interested in the VERB campaign?
The opportunity to apply my communication knowledge to a public health campaign that had the potential for impacting the health of American children was irresistible.

2. How did you and your team members design the messages that would target tweens to become more physically active?
We did extensive formative research to understand tweens’ barriers and motivators for being physically active. We combined these findings with what we knew from the literature about physical activity, for example that people are more likely to be physically active when they hold certain beliefs like, “I am confident I can be physically active” (self-efficacy) and “If I were physically active on most days, it would make me feel good about myself.” We gave this evidence to the advertising agencies that were developing the messaging platforms for the advertising. The creative types at the advertising agencies are so talented at taking an idea like building self-efficacy and writing a script and shooting a TV ad that has these confidence-building and inspirational messages embedded in a 30-second TV spot.

3. What follow-up research have you conducted on the VERB campaign?
We completed the final outcome evaluation paper in 2010. Currently, I am writing up an analysis of tweens’ understanding of verb messages using messaging interpretation processing theory.

4. What is one thing that you would like undergraduates to know about your research, your findings, or your role as a professor?
Students love application; I design my courses so that students have hands-on, real world experiences included in the course, as much as possible.