I was in a shop in Nottingham today, and Gem106 was playing in the background. During the commercial break a government message was played. The advert is available at the Public Health England website as a download audio file, and it comes with a copy of the script.
It’s worth quoting the script in full:
“We hear an instrumental version of ‘Let’s get back’ and over it a bright optimistic voice.
VO: Let’s get back. Back to the way we were. To fun. To the cinema. To gigs…and galleries. The gym. The thrill of a stadium. To being with each other. To the things we love.
Nurse: Testing is free, quick and vital to stop the spread of Coronavirus. So let’s get tested and get back to the things we love. If you’re feeling unwell, get a free test now. Call 119 or go to NHS.UK.”
It’s a very effective advert, and hats off to the agency that produced it. There is a clarity to the pitch, it is upbeat, direct, positive and has a simple call to action. This advert easily gets its point across in thirty-seconds, and has a positive feel to it, with an open and friendly use of music and the contrast of relatable voices.
The message I got from listening to it was: go out and do everything that you want to do, because there is an easy-to-access Covid-19 test waiting for you.
Am I wrong? Have a listen to the advert and tell me what you think?
My problem isn’t with the format of the advert, or where it is placed, but who on earth thought that this was a good message to be giving out to the public during a pandemic? And who thinks this is still a good message to be giving out now that the infection rate appears to be increasing again?
The PHE site shows the advert was made available on 5th August, so it must have been on rotation continuously since then. Commercial radio has proved to be an effective platform for messaging during the lockdown. According to the Radio Centre commercial radio audience reach has increased significantly during the lockdown, with radio remaining one of the most trusted media platforms.
Is it just me, or is this further evidence of the cloth-eared approach to communications taken by the government during the pandemic?
Large parts of the country are now facing extended additional lockdowns, and people in those communities are being blamed by some politicians for not following government guidelines. There is the suggestion that the government will putatively fine people who break quarantine. These messages matter.
I find it astonishing that when the Health Secretary has to issue a warning that England is at a ‘tipping point’ once more, and that he has to impose regional lockdowns, if not a full lockdown, that no one has pulled these adverts and changed the message!
Here in Leicester we’ve lived through the extended lockdown, which meant that government, both local and national, had to change their messages quickly because they had clearly not been working. Why isn’t the same being done with this government promoted Covid-19 message?
I have to raise the question, has this advert and others like it, contributed to the resurgence and the further spread of the virus? Have these messages created a confusing information environment that has lulled people into a false sense of security and optimism, based on contradictory information?
I don’t want to see businesses driven into the ground because of a second wave of panic and mass isolation, and a new set of lockdowns being imposed as the result of an inept and incompetent public information campaign.
Someone needs to pull these adverts, then we need to ask if they have contributed to a second-wave of the virus. Following this we need to launch an enquiry into the effectiveness of the governments communications approach during the pandemic. Clearly, something is going wrong and it needs to be fixed.