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With humor and nostalgia, more and more brands are putting money and clout behind Covid-19 vaccine advertising


A new ad from Sam Adams encourages people to get the Covid-19 vaccine.


As the Covid-19 vaccine spreads, well-known companies, from technology giants to beer brands, are posting public service announcements to encourage people to get their vaccine.

Last week, The Boston Beer Company launched a new Sam Adams campaign promoting the brand’s “Cousin From Boston” vaccine. The ad – created by the advertising agency Goodby, Silverstein and Partners – shows the “cousin” being vaccinated by a real health worker on the mega-site at Fenway Park. But just before he gets his jab, he passes out from his fear of needles and dreams of the day he can meet up with friends in a bar again. (Sam Adams is also offering $ 7 for a celebratory beer to the first 10,000 people who share proof of vaccination on social media using the hashtag #ShotForSam.)

According to GS&P co-founder Jeff Goodby – the legendary creative behind the iconic Got Milk campaign and countless Super Bowl ads – humor is a great way to reach younger audiences, especially after a year as emotionally stressful as 2020.

“You know what humor meant to me, that he puts that into perspective,” says Goodby. “It’s just a vaccination. We have had a million of these in our lives and this one is actually for the benefit of the community around you as well as yourself, and I think we tried to get that across. And it leads to a certain liberation and togetherness. And of course beer is central to togetherness. One of the great things about vaccinating is that you can have beer with people. “

Sam Adams went with humor, but not without testing the ad first to make sure it goes down well despite the serious nature of the subject, says Lesya Lysyj, CMO of the Boston Beer Company. Prior to introducing The Cousin last year, Sam Adams had taken a more serious tone, even before the pandemic began.

“We had the feeling that it was important to show him that because he is so relatable,” says Lysyj. “And if this guy can do it, anyone can. . . We had the feeling that you could put yourself in this guy’s shoes. “

Sam Adams is not alone with his messages. In fact, the Ad Council – a nonprofit with a long history of working with marketers developing PSAs for a variety of purposes – has raised more than $ 50 million to donate Covid-19 PSAs and other related initiatives finance with the aim of reaching a wide audience. To encourage the wearing of masks, it partnered with Warner Media and the CDC in February for Mask Up America, a PSA with characters – from Harry Potter to The Joker to Hobbits from Lord of the Rings – all wear face masks in iconic scenes. And in March, she released a PSA vaccine with former Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Bush.

Heidi Arthur, Chief Campaign Officer of the Ad Council, says the Covid-19 vaccine effort is the most complicated initiative by the organization that led the polio vaccine effort in the 1950s.

“The scale of change can come as fast as the medical community learns more about the effectiveness of vaccines and ensures that all of our messages and content we create are really where the science says it is because it is for people with The flip of a switch can be very confusing for vaccines, ”she says.

While research has shown Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines to be safe and effective, some populations remain reluctant. A survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted by Nielsen last month found that 52% of respondents received at least one dose, made an appointment, or signed up for the vaccine after they were eligible for a vaccination, but 26% were themselves still unsure if they would get their vaccination. and a fifth did not plan to get vaccinated. Many of the undecided were younger, women or Hispanic.

Nafeez Zawahir, Chief Medical Officer at Razorfish Health, points out that it’s also important to distinguish between anti-vaccination and anti-vaccination options. He says marketers need to better acknowledge this reluctance, especially in minority communities that have experienced systemic racism and discrimination in the health system.

“If I simply tell you, also in a paternalistic way, that this vaccine is good and you must take it, and you hesitate and I do not address you in a way that recognizes your problem, then that is” a failure and a failure, that we didn’t really go into, ”he says.

Some medical experts believe the vaccine news has focused on the wrong things. Lee Fraser, Digitas Health’s chief medical officer, says that a lot of early marketing efforts focused on selling the individual protection, not the benefits for all. He thinks that even those who aren’t worried about Covid-19 might tend to get the vaccine if it means being reunited with family and friends.

“The thing about marketing a vaccine is, it’s always gone the way, ‘Hey, there’s this scary pathogen and there’s a vaccine you should be taking that makes you feel safe,'” says Fraser. “And what that sets up is a proposal to be dismissed. Let’s say the risk is high enough that I will have to take this vaccine and it will almost be withdrawn. “

Budweiser’s PPE takes up this feeling. The brand’s ad, also posted on Wednesday, which happened to be National Beer Day and World Health Day, fulfills a promise it made earlier this year to put the money it would normally have spent on a Super Bowl advertisement into vaccination efforts redirect, including the ongoing Ad Council campaign.

Alongside a Jimmy Durante cover of Billie Holidays classic “I’ll Be Seeing You” – a song used in three different vaccine PSAs over the past month – Budweiser’s ad shows a montage of moments of people focusing on a beer in a post-pandemic world. Monica Mody, Vice President of Marketing at Budweiser US, says the budget is “on par with all of our other cultural momentary campaigns”.

“It’s a certain feeling of joy,” says Mody. “It’s the little subtleties of a smiling person in the center of the camera or the image of the Bud doses with cards on the table. It is these little things that you can remember back to pre-Covid life. And it’s just a little joy that the end is imminent. “

These types of emotions are critical to convincing people to get the vaccine, says Bunny Ellerin, director of the health and pharmaceutical management program at Columbia Business School.

“There has never been such a scale, and never has so much light been shed on people who may not want to take the vaccine or who don’t trust it,” she says.

Google also recently released a sentimental new commercial. The ad is called “Get Back To What You Love” and shows a large number of search terms from the pandemic era – such as “Quarantine”, “Social Distancing” and “Lockdown”, which are deleted from the browser and replaced by such the one return to. symbolize normality. The search giant has also worked with the Ad Council on a number of vaccine education efforts, including a Get The Facts campaign due to run through April.

Companies at the forefront of vaccine distribution are also stepping up their marketing. While demand for the vaccine outperformed supply until recently, Walgreens CMO Pat McLean said the company has withheld far-reaching marketing efforts and instead focused on hyper-targeted advertising based on availability. Now that the supply has grown, according to McLean, it is time to encourage those who are still on the fence. And because Walgreens not only appeals to the usual customers, but appeals to the masses, the media strategy is also different.

Early last week, Walgreens debuted a new campaign called “This Is Our Shot”. The first ad, narrated by singer John Legend, features a range of pastimes suspended due to the pandemic, from graduations and weddings to holidays and sporting events. A second ad with Legends single, after which the campaign is named, will appear in a few weeks and find the artist with an emotional appeal to viewers to get vaccinated.

“It’s not just a campaign to raise awareness about vaccine availability,” says McLean. “It is really important for us to make sure that vaccines are available to everyone and that vaccine distribution is fair.”


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