Jul 14, 2021

“Too graphic”: Have the latest vaccination advertising campaigns gone too far?

nsw gov covid ad

Pressure is mounting on state and federal governments to get the Australian population vaccinated as quickly as possible, with the Delta strain outbreak in Sydney a stark reminder that COVID-19 remains a clear and present danger.

Daily case numbers have been the highest since April last year and, increasingly, young people are being hospitalised with the virus.

An advertisement released by the NSW government depicts a young woman with COVID-19 clearly terrified and struggling to breathe. The ad ends with her looking pleadingly to the camera with the message, “COVID-19 can affect anyone. Stay home. Get tested. Book your vaccination.” 

The ad, which is only being aired in Sydney, is clearly intended to shock an at-risk population into urgent action.

But the advertisement has been blasted for being too graphic and not an accurate representation of how someone with COVID-19 would be cared for in hospital.

Others have commented the desire to elicit a strong fear response reminds them of the 1980s grim reaper campaign against AIDS.

An added controversy is the fact that the woman appears to be under the age of 40 and so would find it difficult to access the vaccine.

The recommended vaccine for her – Pfizer – would be largely unavailable. The government’s strategy of encouraging younger people to talk to their doctors about having the AstraZeneca vaccine has been heavily criticised.

The federal government’s “Arm Yourself” campaign takes a vastly different approach. Featuring soft pastel colours and images of arms with round Band-Aids where they have received a jab, this ad has been criticised as being too bland.

Samantha Maiden, Political Editor at news.com.au, told the ABC’s Insiders program, “It’s about as exciting as a bowl of Weet-bix left out on the counter by your kids when you told them to put it in the dishwasher.”

“The only thing it makes me want to do is go to the gym and do an upper body workout.”

Journalist Amy Remeikis said it’s disappointing the campaign is about self-interest and doesn’t appeal to people to think of others.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said its creators needed to “go back to the drawing board”.

In another effort, an ad from Victoria’s Department of Health features a young mother with COVID-19 who has not seen her two young boys for six weeks. The ad ends on a sombre note, informing viewers the young mother had returned to hospital and wishing her good luck.

“This is honest, authentic and true,” wrote Adjunct Professor at UNSW and Strategic Health Consultant Professor Bill Bowtell AO, of the ad.

Perhaps the creative minds behind the above mentioned ad campaigns could look to Heinekin for inspiration. It’s ad in the UK depicts older partygoers whooping it up and having a good time under the banner, “The night belongs to the vaccinated. Time to join them.”

Under the hashtag #FreshBeginnings, the attractive funky older people are partying at a seaside nightclub. The revellers wear great clothes, they’re dancing and flirting, and even swimming half naked!

What do you think? Is fear the right approach when governments are trying to encourage people to get vaccinated? Or is it better to show the positives of life once you’ve had the jab?

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  1. It is not true that a person would be left in such a condition of acute suffering due to a struggle to breathe in an Australian hospital today.

  2. If it takes shock tactics to get people to get vaccinated then DO IT
    I lost a good friend in very early days to COVID you never get over not being able to say good bye to loved ones
    Please go get vaccinated!!


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