Revisiting COVID Vaccination PSA Effectiveness as School Opens Up

Keith O'Brien
Keith O'Brien
August 26 2 min read
When we released our Vaccine Ad Report in June, there was a little bit of optimism that come the beginning of the 2021 school year, the world would collectively be in much better shape. However, the Delta variant surge and too many vaccine hesitant or skeptics have meant many countries are still far away from herd immunity, and some cities are experiencing hospital overloads and dramatic rises in deaths.  
 
Some school years have begun, and the rest will start in September. While each country, state, and city is taking different approaches to mask and vaccine mandates, there is still plenty of work to convince the unvaccinated to take the shots.  
 
Recently, Advertising Insider solicited opinions from creative executives about how to persuade those who have yet to receive the vaccine:  
 
 
Highlighting the challenge of this assignment, there was no consensus. One recommended humor, another suggested aggressive language “killing COVID,” a third recommended reminding people that Trump helped bring the vaccine. Everyone had a different opinion because there would be 100% vaccination rates if there were a perfect message.
 
 
That is why our research is so important: we set out to understand which vaccine PSAs drove more attention than others. Different creative appealed to different political and racial groups, making the process even more difficult.  
 
Democrats responded more favorably to vaccine ads, unsurprisingly when you look at the breakdown of what percentage of Democrats and Republicans are vaccinated (80% to 55% based on the latest poll).  
 
For instance, Republicans responded more favorably to ads that provided sentimental and religious messages than those focused on science. 
 
But the response to ads is not exactly correlated to vaccine rates. For example, Whites responded most favorably to the ads in our panel, yet Whites as a racial group lag behind Black, Hispanic, and Asians in total vaccine uptake. The disparity may have more to do with the ads being created in an echo chamber that did not appeal to people in different demographics. 
 
So what lessons can public interest and governmental groups apply to ensure as many people get vaccinated as possible.  


  1. There is no one perfect ad that will appeal to all political and racial groups. They should include input from those groups, including creative direction, and speak to what motivates them specifically. 
  2. Using agile production methods to respond to changing dynamics to make the most effects ads 
  3. Take advantage of predictive tools to more scientifically know which ads will be the most likely to succeed. 
2021_07 Vaccine Report Promo - sml

Read the whole report here 

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