The federal government has a new A $11 million ad campaign Urging Australians to “handle winter” by getting COVID boosters and flu vaccines, as well as promoting COVID vaccination for children.
Still COVID boosters – a third dose for most adults, or fourth dose for those over 65 years of age risk groups – are critical. They increase protection against serious diseases, which: decreases within three months of the second dose of the COVID vaccine.
While most children experience relatively mild COVID symptoms, some children, including those who were previously healthy, can become very ill and require hospitalization. We don’t want children to get COVID and vaccination can help protect them.
In addition to COVID, we also experience our biggest flu season since 2019who struck hard and early.
Older adults and children aged six months to five years belong to the groups on the highest risk from flu. And since we haven’t had a flu season during the pandemic, children under the age of two have never been exposed and have no immunity.
But while the government’s new ads do some things well, they miss the mark in others: they fail to connect on an emotional level by highlighting the meaningful benefits of vaccination and they fail to address most people’s biggest concerns.
What makes a good campaign?
A well-designed campaign can make people aware of the availability and suitability of vaccines, shape social norms by emphasizing shared values and generating vaccine demand by emphasizing the individual and collective benefits of vaccination.
Last year we have studied what people from the first vaccine priority groups (health professionals, people over 65 and people with underlying health conditions) thought and felt about COVID vaccines, and what they wanted from communication campaigns and materials.
Based on what they told us, effective communication should:
- provide information on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines
- addressing people’s concerns about side effects
- highlight the wider benefits of vaccination, not just those related to personal health
- discuss the severity of the COVID infection
- communicate about vaccine availability
- personalize information to take into account people’s underlying medical conditions and treatments
- use real, diverse spokespersons
- use clear and simple language and build trust through transparency.
We also to advise using humor and emotion to generate engagement and increase motivation to vaccinate, while avoiding fear-based messages that could backfire or cause unintended harm.
What’s in the new campaign?
The Take on the winter ad meets some of our recommended criteria, but falls short in other areas.
It conveys the important message that it is safe to get your COVID and flu shots at the same time.
It has a clear call to action – “book today” – and notes that the vaccines are available from primary care physicians and pharmacies.
However, the makers have made the disappointing decision to recycle the unattractive, faceless arms of last year’s A$41 million. Arm yourself campaign, which fell right and was not liked by the viewers.
In the ad for COVID vaccination for children, Kids will be kidsalso released last week, the cast is diverse, but no real connection has been made between vaccination and the kids doing generic kid stuff.
What is missing?
While a TV ad can’t do everything to address vaccine hesitation, these ads show some notable gaps.
None of the government ads do much to allay concerns about side effects. The most common reason parents cite for not vaccinating their children is concerns about vaccine safety and side effects, even though children experience them. fewer side effects than adults. But the Kids will be Kids ad uses just a relatively simplistic maternity statement about vaccine safety.
Adults are also concerned about side effects. Some people who had two unpleasant, short-term side effects after dose are hesitant to get a booster dose – although side effects are reported after the booster less frequent then after dose two. Communicating how well vaccine safety is monitored in Australia and the low incidence of common and anticipated side effects can put people at ease.
The ads are also unlikely to generate an emotional response from viewers, which is an important part of motivating behavior change. The Take on Winter ad does not associate COVID vaccine boosters or the flu shot with meaningful personal benefits or motivators, such as being able to go to work, travel, socialize, or see elderly grandparents. There is no emotional resonance.
And while we agree with the decision to avoid a fear-based message in Kids will be kids, one of the key factors driving vaccine intent and use is, perceived sensitivity to Covid. Many parents feel that their children are not at risk for serious illness, or that they have already had COVID, so they don’t see the urgency or value in vaccinating them.
A more specific message about the importance of vaccination, even for people who have already had COVIDor personal stories from real parents of previously healthy children who became very sick with COVID would likely resonate more strongly.
We have to respect how critical people are, especially because vaccine-vaccine fatigue is high. For all dollars spent, evidence from the social and behavioral sciences must be reflected in the messages to ensure the ads are as effective as possible.
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