In September 2021, incidence rates of COVID-19 in rural America were roughly 54% higher than elsewhere in the country according to the Rural Policy Research Institute. As this disparity and rates of vaccine hesitancy continue, the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative partnered with trusted rural voices like the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Cooperative Extension System and others to release new PSAs that feature and speak to rural Americans from across the country. The PSAs showcase the firsthand impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines for seven individuals and families, encouraging Americans who may still be questioning the vaccines to seek the latest accurate information about getting vaccinated.
“With the disproportionate impact of the pandemic in rural areas across the country, it’s critically important that Americans in rural communities hear these powerful stories from each other, their neighbors,” said Lisa Sherman, President and CEO of the Ad Council. “We’re grateful to these individuals and their families for sharing their powerful and poignant stories. Our aim is to uplift their voices, meet rural Americans where they are, and let these experiences inspire millions more to feel confident in the vaccines.”
Research from the Rural Policy Research Institute showed that rural counties had higher rates of COVID-19 than their urban counterparts in 39 states this September. However, large groups among the rural population who remain undecided about vaccination continue to have concerns about long-term side effects of the vaccines (73.7%) and doubts about the efficacy of vaccination (69.6%) due to new breakthrough cases, according to recent Ad Council research. Recent CDC data reveals that 35% of rural Americans are unvaccinated, which is a vaccination rate 10% lower than their urban and suburban counterparts.
“I shared openly about getting COVID last year and about getting vaccinated–not wanting to meet with that virus again. I appreciate the many other farmers, ranchers and rural neighbors who are sharing their journeys, too, including those in these new PSAs,” said Zippy Duvall, President of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “Farmers and ranchers are stronger together, and that especially goes for getting ahold of the pandemic. You can’t go wrong in seeking out information about your COVID-19 vaccination options from a trusted source, like your doctor, and we’re proud to be a part of empowering Americans to make that choice.”
The PSAs highlight experiences from a wide variety of individuals, including family pharmacists in Texas, a football coach in North Carolina, newlyweds in Mississippi, family farmers in Kansas and Georgia, a lifelong cowboy in Texas and a self-proclaimed “sports mom” in Georgia. The breadth of identities represented in the PSAs, and found across rural America, contribute to the relatable, compelling nature of each story. Whether motivated by their families, faith, communities or other perspectives, the participants open up about the diverse factors that went into their decisions to get educated about the COVID-19 vaccines, and ultimately get vaccinated themselves.
“As the pandemic continues to have an outsized impact in rural areas, our vaccination education campaign will redouble its efforts to reach the tens of millions of Americans in these communities who are still questioning whether or not to get vaccinated against COVID-19,” said John Bridgeland, Co-Founder and CEO of the COVID Collaborative. “A nationwide response must reach every part of the country and we’re eager to help engage more Americans to get answers to their questions about the vaccines.”
In collaboration with the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Association of Farm Broadcasting, the National Association of Community Health Centers and the Cooperative Extension System, the PSAs will be distributed nationally with a specific focus on rural areas in the South and Midwest.
The full series of seven stories can be viewed here on YouTube.
“We are grateful to partner with the Ad Council in ensuring that rural residents have the right tools and information to make an informed decision about the COVID-19 vaccines,” said Ron Yee, MD, Chief Medical Officer of the National Association of Community Health Centers.
Major media partners and industry trade associations, including Facebook, FOX, Google/YouTube, National Association of Broadcasters, Outdoor Advertising Association of America, Radio Advertising Bureau, Television Bureau of Advertising among others have committed to providing significant donated media time and space to run and amplify the new PSA assets. What If Media Group will also continue to provide support by sending vaccine messaging via email to unvaccinated people living in rural communities. Per the Ad Council’s model, the TV and digital creative will be distributed in the United States where it will run in donated media.
Deborah Riley Draper, Founder and CEO of Coffee Bluff Pictures and a Georgia native herself, wrote and directed the PSAs. Her company, Coffee Bluff Pictures, served as the agency of record and production company. “The south has a rich history of storytellers, and I was honored to create an opportunity for seven families to share their experiences and the impact of both the vaccine and the pandemic on their lives and their communities,” says Draper. Recently, she worked with the Ad Council on the Tuskegee Legacy Stories in partnership with descendants of the men involved in the U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee. Draper is an award-winning and critically-acclaimed filmmaker, author, motivational speaker, and advertising agency veteran. She was named to Variety Magazine’s “2016 Top 10 Documakers to Watch” list, and is a member of the Film Fatales and a Facebook SEEN Program alum and mentor.
The new rural content is part of the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative’s COVID-19 Vaccine Education Initiative, “It’s Up To You.” The overarching creative platform was developed by Pereira O’Dell, with additional campaign assets created by JOY Collective, Alma, Saatchi & Saatchi, Deutsch LA, Group SJR, Coffee Bluff Pictures and other partners to ensure the American public has the latest and most accurate information about the COVID-19 vaccines. To date, the campaign has received $200M in media support and related publicity across all channels, with at least 75% of Americans eligible for the vaccine having seen “It’s Up To You” ads and driving over 9 million sessions to GetVaccineAnswers.org. Of those who visit GetVaccineAnswers.org with concerns, nearly 60% left feeling more confident about getting vaccinated.
Leading contributors to date include Amazon, Apple, Bank of America, Cisco, Comcast NBCUniversal, CVS Health, Facebook, General Motors, Google and YouTube, The Humana Foundation, Reckitt, Salesforce, Verizon, Walgreens and Walmart. Significant contributions have also been provided by Adobe, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the American Heart Association, the American Medical Association, BNY Mellon, Budweiser/Anheuser-Busch Foundation, Business Roundtable, Caterpillar Foundation, Citi, Ford Motor Company, Honeywell, JPMorgan Chase, Kaiser Permanente, Mastercard, the New York Life Foundation, Stanley Black & Decker, Synchrony, Target, Unilever, Wells Fargo and ViacomCBS.