Ad Council Launches $50 Million Fund for National COVID-19 Vaccine Education Effort

The Ad Council has announced plans for a communications effort to encourage vaccination against the virus, which will represent one of the largest public education campaigns in history. This effort will be launched in partnership with the COVID Collaborative, a national assembly that has brought together leading experts and institutions across health, education and the economy to turn the tide on the pandemic by supporting state and local officials.

This national initiative will complement government efforts and has set an initial goal of raising $50 million from the private sector, including the philanthropic community and corporations. This effort will be guided by science and health experts from the COVID Collaborative, amplified by partnerships across every sector and rooted in extensive research with key audiences.

According to a recent survey fielded by the COVID Collaborative, a majority of Americans (86%) believe that a vaccine will be effective in curbing the virus. Yet the survey found that only one-third (34%) say they will definitely get vaccinated themselves. According to a new survey being released today by the COVID Collaborative, NAACP and UnidosUS, trust in the vaccine is particularly low in Black and Latinx communities, with only 14% of Black Americans and 34% of Latinx Americans trusting that a vaccine will be safe.

“Widespread adoption of the COVID-19 vaccine is our generation’s ‘moonshot’ and will represent one of the largest public health interventions in our nation’s history,” said Lisa Sherman, Ad Council President and CEO. “By bringing together the worlds of communications, public health and policy, we can transform life as we know it today and save hundreds of thousands of lives.”

“Many of America’s top experts, leaders and institutions in health, education and the economy have joined forces in a new collaborative to help defeat COVID-19 and support state and local leaders in the effort to save lives,” said John Bridgeland, COVID Collaborative Co-Founder & CEO. “We will marshal the full force of the country’s energy and talent behind the Ad Council’s campaign to engage Americans in their own recovery.”

The Ad Council’s effort includes two key components which will be deployed on a rolling basis: the development of breakthrough creative work and an insights engine that will enable continuous testing and optimization of messages and creative. These resources will be focused on delivering on four key needs:

  • Identifying and addressing misconceptions and concerns around vaccine safety and effectiveness
  • Uniting trusted messengers, influential voices and large-scale platforms around consistent, research-based messaging
  • Tailoring communications to reach multiple diverse audiences through strategic media placements and community-based outreach
  • Reinforcing the importance of wearing face masks as vaccines are rolled out

The first phase of messaging is currently in development for release in early 2021. The research, creative efforts and partners will continually evolve and expand as the vaccine is distributed to a broader range of audiences and in response to shifts in public understanding and mindsets. The initiative will also offer partners an open source national messaging playbook with distinct approaches for diverse audiences.

The initiative draws on the expertise of the COVID Collaborative, a national assembly chaired by former Governor and U.S. Senator Dirk Kempthorne (R-ID) and former Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA). The assembly includes leaders from across Republican and Democratic Administrations at the federal, state and local levels, including former FDA Commissioners, CDC Directors, and U.S. Surgeon Generals; former U.S. Secretaries of Education, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services; as well as generals, college presidents, business CEOs, philanthropists and more.

“COVID Collaborative has brought together a diverse set of leaders to support this effort and to ensure that vaccine messaging is not only informed by the best science, but by representatives of historically marginalized communities to make sure the messages will resonate,” said Gary Edson, COVID Collaborative President and Former Deputy National Security Advisor and Deputy National Economic Advisor.

The scientific advisory group for this effort includes representatives from Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, Morehouse School of Medicine, University of Miami and others. Additional insights will come from partners including the American Public Health Association, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, CDC Foundation, NAACP, National Association of County and City Health Officials, UnidosUS, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The COVID Collaborative and the Ad Council have also recently partnered to develop the “Mask Up America” toolkit for the National Governors’ Association. This central hub provides customizable resources, including assets created in partnership with the Infectious Diseases Society of America, for every governor to communicate the importance of wearing face coverings throughout their state.

Since the pandemic was declared in March, the Ad Council has mobilized the industry to launch an unprecedented, multi-pronged communications effort to combat COVID-19. To date this work has resulted in $394.5M in donated media value, 58.4M engagements and 30.6M visits to Coronavirus.gov. In the 1950s, the Ad Council played a key role in encouraging the American public to be vaccinated against polio—a disease that has since been eradicated in the United States.

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