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In the face of a devastating global pandemic, governments around the world worked with global pharmaceutical leaders to develop and test multiple COVID-19 vaccines at breakneck speed – less than one year from start to finish.

It’s a remarkable scientific achievement, and researchers are still hard at work tackling variants and testing boosters.

But now that supply is getting close to meeting demand, there’s another major item on the agenda: Vaccine education and awareness.

Battling skepticism

According to a poll conducted earlier this year by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, one in three Americans say they either definitely or probably won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine because they doubt whether it’s safe and effective.

There are also concerns about whether people trust that the vaccine is being distributed fairly, particularly in underserved sections of society.

And only 40% of people in Black and Hispanic communities feel they have enough information to make an informed decision about getting a COVID-19 vaccination, according to recent research gathered by Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of The Ad Council.

It’s up to us

But the advertising community is rising to the challenge with a sweeping campaign launched in February to combat vaccine hesitancy and encourage immunization through the spread of relevant information.

The effort, under the banner of “It’s Up To You,” is being spearheaded by the nonprofit Ad Council and has support from more than 300 brands, agencies, media companies, technology providers, medical experts, faith leaders and even a few former presidents and first ladies.

Amazon, Apple, Disney, iHeartMedia, Facebook and Instagram, Google and YouTube, CVS Health, Pandora, Snapchat, Salesforce, The Trade Desk, Twitter and hundreds of others are among the organizations pitching in, donating their products, services and expertise.

And we’re not just talking about a few public service announcements. This is one of the largest public education efforts in US history, distributed in both English and Spanish nationwide across TV, digital, radio and social media.

Spreading the word

Creative agency Pereira O’Dell, for example, worked pro bono to develop the campaign’s concept, which reaffirms the value of vaccination by highlighting the moments we miss when we’re forced to be apart.

Adobe is working with its creator community to produce artwork that speaks directly to the needs of underrepresented groups.

Spotify is producing custom audio PSAs for host-read podcast ads that promote vaccine awareness across donated media. IBM Watson is contributing its artificial intelligence technology to provide research insights and test which creative messages resonate the most with audiences that might be wary of the vaccine.

NBCUniversal, Telemundo, WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS are developing custom assets and donating broadcast media. Unilever is amplifying the Ad Council’s work with paid and earned media, retail tie-ins and employee outreach.

Pandemic PMP

But the “It’s Up To You” campaign is only The Ad Council’s most recent work to help educate the public with critical health-related information.

At the start of the pandemic, The Ad Council – in its first-ever foray into programmatic – rolled out a private marketplace (PMP) with The Trade Desk and Cadreon specifically for PSAs related to COVID-19.

The ad tech community came out in force to bolster the PMP with free media from Xandr, OpenX, GroundTruth, TripleLift, EMX, InMobi, Kargo, New York Post and Bustle.

Fluent, IPG’s Acxiom and Crossix donated audience segments through LiveRamp to target at-risk adults over 65 with safety tips and millennials with messaging encouraging them to stay at home. ViacomCBS, NBCU and Sesame Workshop devised the campaigns.

By April of last year, the Ad Council’s PMP had already reached nearly a million unique users with display and video ads that performed above industry benchmarks for click-throughs and completion rate.

It’s just one more shining example of what’s achievable when the industry collaborates with a higher purpose in mind. And if there was ever a time for truly purpose-driven marketing – that time is now.


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