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Ad campaign launched to build public trust in COVID-19 shots

An ad reads Getting back to the moments we miss starts with getting informed. GetVaccineAnswers.org
An image that’s part of the Ad Council’s new “It’s Up To You” campaign to build public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines in the United States.
(Ad Council)

A public service ad campaign unveiled Thursday aims to persuade Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19, telling them, “It’s Up to You.”

The campaign by the Ad Council and its partners is focused on those who may be hesitant to get the shots. One print ad reads “Getting back to hugs starts with getting informed” and directs readers to a website with information about vaccines in seven languages.

“Our goal is to move them from being hesitant to being confident” in vaccines, said Lisa Sherman, the Ad Council’s president.

As many as 1 in 3 Americans say they definitely or probably won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a recent poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Some scientists estimate that more than 2 in 3 Americans will need to get vaccinated to stop the epidemic that has killed more than half a million people in the U.S.

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The large, national campaign is producing an array of English and Spanish ads for TV, billboards, bus shelters, social media and publications that will be rolled out over the next few months. A few of the ads are expected to feature public figures like actors Angela Bassett and John Leguizamo, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta and the government’s top infectious-disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

The spots are expected to run throughout the year.

The effort includes materials specifically for church leaders, doctors, pharmacists and others in Black and Hispanic communities.

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Noel Jones knows his congregants at City of Refuge Church are worried about vaccine safety. But he also knows they are at high risk for COVID-19.

The new campaign was funded by $52 million in contributions and supplemented with donated labor and resources, Sherman said. The advertising industry-backed group calls it one of the largest public education efforts in U.S. history. The group is famous for many iconic public service campaigns, including “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love” for the Peace Corps.

Print versions show an adhesive bandage framing the words “It’s Up to You.” One video spot shows a series of illustrated arms of different colors and one robotic, all with a bandage on the upper arm, blending in to a mosaic of the U.S. map. “You’ve got questions. And that’s normal” reads another ad. It invites viewers to go to a website, GetVaccineAnswers.org, to get more information.

Although vaccines have been available — in limited supplies — in the U.S. since mid-December, the timing of the ad campaign is actually good, said Jay Winsten, a Harvard University public health communications expert.

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A new poll from AP and NORC at the University of Chicago reveals Americans’ latest feelings about COVID-19 vaccines now that they’re rolling out to the public.

It takes a while for people who question the effectiveness or safety of vaccines to gain faith in shots, said Winsten, who is known as the architect of a national designated driver campaign that aimed to reduce drunk driving injuries and deaths.

But it also helps that millions of Americans have already received shots and did not suffer serious side effects, he added.

“People will be more open to the messaging now” because of that, he said.

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The federal government is involved in the Ad Council’s campaign, but also has its own in the works. A $300-million campaign from the Department of Health and Human Services was put on pause late in the Trump administration. Biden administration officials have picked it up but have not said when it will launch.


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