Voices

Can the advertising industry unite and use its power of persuasion to fight coronavirus?

As the UK experiences an era defining global health crisis, the communications industry has an important role to play in persuading people to act on the latest Government advice, writes Mary Langan.

Mary Langan, Nua Training

Founder & Director

Share


The UK is experiencing an era defining global health crisis. Government, scientists and business must come together to tackle it.

The communications industry has an important role to play in persuading people to act on the latest Government advice.

Between us we have the platforms, reach, influence and skills to help tackle this crisis.

We all have a part to play.

Criticism of the Government’s approach

So far, the Government’s media campaigns have failed to work. In time, behavioural scientists will understand why. 

The government has faced much criticism about unclear messaging and reach. Let’s hope that Boris Johnson’s statement last night was a step in the right direction in terms of crystal-clear communication from Number 10.

Sky News yesterday reported: “The government has not run a single advert about the coronavirus pandemic from its official Facebook or Instagram accounts. This is despite the fact that the UK has been offered ‘millions’ in free ad credits to use on two of the world's largest digital advertising platforms. The government has also not run ads through other popular official accounts, despite taking a series of unprecedented steps to safeguard the public and the economy during the crisis.”

Given everything the government is dealing with perhaps a communications strategy was not top priority. However, clear and effective communication undoubtedly plays a crucial role, and this is where the advertising industry can help.

If we can bring the full force and scale of the UK’s creative and media industries together to create crystal-clear, government-aligned communications and help save lives, then let’s make it happen.

Mary Langan

What can the advertising community do?

Advertising is powerful, and it can help shift behaviour. Thanks to the Advertising Association, in partnership with ISBA and the IPA, the advertising world came together earlier this year to discuss a collective effort on climate change. However, to date the AA hasn’t publicly announced any industry initiative in the fight against coronavirus.

If we can bring the full force and scale of the UK’s creative and media industries together to create crystal-clear, government-aligned communications and help save lives, then let’s make it happen.

Create campaigns that work

The UK has some of the leading creatives in the world. The legendary Dave Trott has been sharing creative advice on Twitter. His memorable ‘Catch it, Bin it, Kill it’ campaign, created in 2009 and previously used in health campaigns, was resurrected by the government last night to run on OOH sites around London and online.

Another powerful creative example is an incredibly moving video on Twitter from the Belfast Trust, that shares the important message of staying home.  

Just imagine what could be achieved if the UK’s leading creatives worked together to create powerful comms persuading people to act on government advice and #StayAtHome. 

Mobilise brands to help share responsible messages

There are some brilliant examples of brands across the globe doing their bit. Zara is making protective face masks, LVMH is producing hand sanitisers and VAV is shifting focus to make ventilators. However, there are very few examples of advertising campaigns educating the public to stay at home or practice social distancing.

Given the crisis we are collectively facing, shouldn’t brands be focusing their marketing and advertising efforts on two things: helping the government achieve cut through with clear messaging and entertaining the public stuck at home?

Collectively we have the reach to spread the message far and wide. Now is the time.

Mary Langan

Media owners

Many media owners are stepping up to the plate. Facebook has offered free ads to the World Health Organisation and to governments across the world.

In OOH, many campaigns are being coordinated free of charge, so as an industry they are doing a great service.

We are starting to see a step change on social today following UK lockdown, with the ‘Stay Home’ badge starting to appear. Arguably social has been slow to respond, but with enormous reach and an ability to make campaigns go viral, it has a huge responsibility to ensure accurate messages are distributed and to crush ‘fake’ news.

We can do this together

Let’s come together as an industry led by the Advertising Association and industry bodies. Let’s get the best creatives together, collaborate and create best in class communications. Let’s get brands to support our initiatives and get on board. Collectively we have the reach to spread the message far and wide. Now is the time.

As the Chancellor Rishi Sunak said,

“When this is over, and it will be over, we want to look back at this moment and remember…how we thought first of others and acted with decency. We want to look back on this time and remember how, in the face of a generation-defining moment, we undertook a collective national effort and we stood together.”

As an industry let’s do our best work ever. It is important. It will save lives. It’s on all of us

Guest Author

Mary Langan, Nua Training

Founder & Director,

About

Mary is the Founder and Director of Nua Training, a people development consultancy that works with leading UK media owners. Nua's focus is on developing individuals and teams to be at their very best. Prior to founding Nua, Mary worked in the media industry in sales and marketing roles.

Related Tags

Crisis Communications