The nation is currently on a knife’s edge. Victoria for all intents and purposes appears to be losing the COVID battle. NSW, sadly, is on the brink of going down the same path.
It’s not our place at B&T to lead the coverage of this insidious virus’ spread. However, at this time, in this industry, it is absolutely our role to start questioning the efficacy of the advertising and other communications being rolled out by the state and federal governments.
Of course, it’s not the role of an advertising agency to control the spread of the virus, but probably now more than ever it’s the time to manage the message effectively.
Back in March, when we hoarded toilet paper and other essential supplies, the core part of the message was different. Don’t panic! Was as important as any other message. People were largely compliant and apart from the odd incident at Bondi Beach on a warm afternoon, distances were maintained, and hygiene was observed. We flattened the curve.
Fast forward to now, and the nation, particularly our two most populous states, is in a state of profound disappointment. While NZ nailed their mission of eradication, we stumbled at the final hurdle. We’re over it.
A tiny outbreak got bigger and now we’re looking at going back to lockdown. Everyone is annoyed and sadly a lot of people’s response has been to give up. News reports of people with symptoms failing to self-isolate, house parties with way too many people speaks to a nation having grown tired of the restrictions.
Perhaps now, we need to consider the message. Staying apart keeps us together has served us well. But is it not time we dusted off the grim reaper? Surely pictures on TV of people on ventilators struggling to breath accompanied by the individuals’ stories would have more effect.
It’s time to frighten people into submission. To make the horror of dying real to everybody so that every time they step outside, they cannot not think of the risks to themselves or a loved one.
Of course, every time we mention the famous Siimon Reynolds campaign, we get a flood of letters pointing out its short comings and failings. And yes, I’m not defending them and the upshot for gay men in particular was deeply regrettable. The key point in this instance is the efficacy of the ad. It’s impact was massive and its ability to change behaviour I would argue was unparalleled.
Surely as a nation, what we need no from our ads right now is one that turns the impact dial up to 11. It’s time to be bold. Lives and livelihoods, to quote ScoMo, depend on it.
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