Tag Archives: Health

Heard immunity: time for the media to probe a little deeper

To my knowledge, there have been no TV interviews with advertising professionals querying the communications effectiveness of the government’s Covid-19 strategy, despite the fact that it’s clear – judging by case numbers and deaths – that a significant proportion of the population is immune to the messages they’ve heard. If communicating a simple message effectively is just a matter of standing in front of a lectern and repeating a three-part slogan day after day, why do advertising agencies bother with all their expensive visuals, voiceovers and music – and research – when selling products?

We found out early on in the pandemic (from charts presented by the experts) that statistically the USA had more cases than we had, here in the UK. This must have been a huge shock. Then it occurred to some of us that maybe that was because the USA has a somewhat bigger population than the UK. It was only a matter of six weeks or so before we began to see “cases per 100,000” population figures being quoted. This was reassuring. I thought I detected the first signs of some statistical expertise being brought to bear.

And, sure enough, the charts eventually became more detailed and informative. But nowhere is there any statistical information about the effectiveness of government communications. I’m sure that behind the scenes questions such as the following are being asked, as they would be by any ad. agency worth its salt:

  • in terms of percentage measures, what levels of unprompted awareness of key safety messages (Hands – Face – Space, for instance) are being achieved?; how do they vary by demographic – age group/region/income level/etc.? how many people are fully cognisant of the lockdown rules applicable to their area?;
  • what are people’s attitudes to different messages? how many would like to see more detailed information (and of what kind)?; how has credibility been affected by events such as ministers’ infringing the rules?; what proportion of people would be happy with a stricter lockdown – and again, how do these attitudes vary by demographic? does everyone understand concepts such as ‘bubble’ and ‘Tier 4’? which of the communicators perform best in terms of getting the messages across?
  • what do we know – statistically – about how the virus is passed on?; what do those who’ve recovered have to say about how they think they caught it (some may be wrong, but patterns should emerge)?; how should such information modulate the weight, nature and targeting of government messaging?

But it seems there is very little interest amongst the media in wanting to see a mathematical measure of any of this. For communicators, these measures are the equivalent, for scientists, of developing vaccines. They should be utilised to set objectives and provide a means of making decision-makers accountable. Research results almost invariably challenge assumptions. Changes in awareness and attitude levels drive public perceptions … and actions. Advertising agencies and their marketeer clients spend over £20 billion each year, and consequently many millions on detailed measurement of these and other parameters, using the data generated to make subtle, or sometimes radical, changes to their ad. campaigns for myriad products and services.

Advertisers see the value of such statistical research in sales and profits. To my knowledge, they rarely call in scientists or politicians to advise them on how to launch a new brand or create high awareness of their product’s benefits. Many, many decades of research, both published and proprietary, inform their decisions.

We see all too clearly what is happening to people’s bodies. But what is going on in their minds?

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Get masked up – they’re the next big fashion accessory

Will there be any longer-term effects of the sudden vogue for face masks? They seem to be untying their associations with deadly disease and becoming the next big thing, the little black dress of the 2020s – the latest mainstream fashion statement. They’re being seen on catwalks everywhere, like here at the Madrid Fashion Week

… and here in South Korea …

Designer Marine Serre may have started the current craze inadvertently. Her Fall Winter 2019 show included a range of au courant masks, way before the current pandemic overtook us.

And of course these new, colourful, designer face coverings – often sporting messages or logos – are to be seen in every city centre, every suburb and even every rural setting (lockdowns and curfews permitting). It seems to me that a new, and potentially major, sector of the fashion industry may well be in the making. With so many companies having turned over their productive capacity to the making of, first, PPE, and then later the wider consumer market for masks, it’s surely unlikely that the accoutriment will simply vanish. And if it stays, isn’t it likely to lead on to other things?

They become an item of personal branding. Masks have been used throughout history as a means of changing identity, creating mystery and hiding both one’s appearance and one’s true feelings. They’re still used in various festivals and select social events, such as the Venice Carnival.

So where could all this be leading? Might we be about to witness the birth of more modest – and yet more showy – cultural standards, a less in-yer-face – and yet more ostentatious – ethos, a ramping-up of both courtesy … and flamboyance? Will we enter a Post-Pandemic Age in which a fashionable mask becomes as commonplace an accessory as a scarf, a bangle, a hat or a set of false eyelashes?

Would it not be wonderful to see masked balls in discos, clubs and pubs up and down the land, with closing time a signal for the streets to be filled with gallant young men escorting demure, mask-wearing young ladies to their motorised electric carriages, rather than, at throwing-out time, shots-saturated tarts and booze-fuelled yobs throwing punches at each other, throwing insults at the police and throwing-up on the pavement?

Oh I do hope so.



Image credit: Venice Carnival – Masked Lovers: Frank Kovalchek from Anchorage, Alaska, USA, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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