‘We wanted a vaccine ad based on hope’: arts and community sector PSAs fill government ‘vacuum’

After the heavily criticised federal fear-based campaign, two new Covid ads made on shoestring budgets are getting thousands of shares

Arts organisations and the community sector – two sectors among the hardest hit by the pandemic – have stepped into the “vacuum” left by Australia’s government when it comes to vaccine messaging, releasing their own public service announcements encouraging Australians to get vaccinated.

This week two new ads were released: one by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra with the Melbourne Theatre Company and artists from the Australian Ballet; the other from the Victorian Council of Social Services. They’re the latest non-government PSAs after Channel Nine’s effort sparked controversy last month.

Both ads were made within weeks on a minimal budget, have been translated into multiple languages, and have been widely shared on social media. With hundreds of thousands of views, they’ve been received favourably compared with the government campaign, which has been criticised by marketing experts and is more reliant on scare tactics.

The Victorian arts industry’s campaign features performers including Virginia Gay, Tim Minchin and Deborah Cheetham urging audiences to “play their part” and get vaccinated.

This Covid vax ad from the Vic Arts industry is so good! pic.twitter.com/xcvZeeSTvP

— Susan Carland (@SusanCarland) July 19, 2021

The MSO’s managing director, Sophie Galaise, said making the campaign was a way for the orchestra to regain control over a situation that left it feeling powerless. At the end of Melbourne’s fourth lockdown, she says, the MSO and the performing arts industry more broadly “felt we were held hostage a bit”.

The group sensed there was vaccine hesitancy in the community that wasn’t being addressed by government advertising, so decided to run their own social media campaign instead.

“We do not want to replace the government,” she said. “They have their role to play with serious messaging … but we do want to help address some of the underlying reasons that make people hesitate about getting a vaccine.”

The VCOSS campaign, meanwhile, was conceived in-house via the organisation’s WhatsApp group. It features real people from diverse backgrounds talking about the good things that await on the other side of vaccinations.

INCREDIBLY important new message from Victoria's community and cultural leaders. Please, PLEASE get vaccinated when eligible. Thanks to @VCOSS for your continued leadership. Share widely — available in a range of languages. #covid19aus #covid19vic pic.twitter.com/9XF6PWzcwN

— Dr Sandro Demaio (@SandroDemaio) July 19, 2021

Emma King, the VCOSS chief executive, told the Guardian that her organisation wanted to fill a gap. “We didn’t like the other ads that were out there. The government ones were primarily based on fear.

“We did not want an ad based on fear. We wanted an ad that was based on hope – about reclaiming our old lives and getting back the good things. It’s the role of government to do this, but nonetheless many of the people we work with have been heavily impacted by Covid – and we need to have different voices that might encourage people to get vaccinated.”

Adam Ferrier, consumer psychologist and co-founder of Thinkerbell Agency, described the federal campaign as being “as confused and convoluted as the vaccination rollout”.

He wondered what advice the government was receiving when it decided to “launch two ads at the same time that have no stylistic semblance and conflicting messages”.

Virginia Gay
Virginia Gay in the new MSO campaign. Photograph: MSO

Ferrier is not surprised that community groups and other non-government organisations have released their own ads.

“When there’s a power vacuum, either community groups or other organisations come in and plug the gaps ... It feels completely on strategy for the MSO to do a vaccine commercial. The more people are vaccinated, the more concert tickets that get sold. What is interesting is that their ad is getting more positive attention than the federal government advertisements.”

The MSO had more concerts cancelled this week, Galaise said, which cannot be rescheduled this year. “The last 18 months have been very difficult for the morale of our amazing performers.”

Its campaign has been a welcome win after more than a year of cancellations – it has already received almost half a million views. “Our target is to reach as many people as possible, and help a movement towards being vaccinated.”


Brigid Delaney

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
A tale of two cities: Sydney shows prepare to reopen as Melbourne theatres remain mothballed
NSW is taking a ‘very aggressive’ approach to reopening, but there is ‘no roadmap’ in Victoria, industry leaders say

Elissa Blake

21, Sep, 2021 @9:00 PM

Article image
The threads that don't connect: Covid gives Australian conspiracy theorists a common home
‘Sovereign citizens’, anti-vaxxers, mask refuseniks and far-right extremists see all their wildly disparate beliefs confirmed by coronavirus restrictions

Michael McGowan

01, Aug, 2020 @8:00 PM

Article image
Government blames ‘supply problem’ for slow vaccine rollout – as it happened
PM says Australia’s failure to reach vaccine target is due to three million doses that never arrived; Jacinda Ardern says quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand will commence 19 April. This blog is now closed

Luke Henriques-Gomes (now) and Matilda Boseley (earlier)

06, Apr, 2021 @8:16 AM

Article image
Victoria commits $50m to make mRNA coronavirus vaccine – as it happened
Brittany Higgins to ask Scott Morrison to fix ‘systemic coercive control’ in Parliament House. This blog is now closed

Josh Taylor and Matilda Boseley (earlier)

21, Apr, 2021 @7:59 AM

Article image
Australia's coronavirus vaccine rollout to start next week in 240 aged care homes
Chief medical officer warns ‘there will be bumps in the road’ during vaccination program as Victoria emerges from its snap lockdown

Mostafa Rachwani

18, Feb, 2021 @4:35 AM

Article image
Victoria's performing arts win $20m funding as Melbourne readies for reopening
Melbourne festival and MTC will be big winners from state’s share of $75m federal package

Kelly Burke

23, Nov, 2020 @3:05 AM

Article image
First shipment of vaccine lands in Australia – as it happened
Parliament remembers apology to stolen generations, and quarantine-free border to New Zealand closed after new cases. This blog is now closed.

Luke Henriques-Gomes and Amy Remeikis (earlier)

15, Feb, 2021 @8:20 AM

Article image
Morrison acknowledges vaccine rollout problems after New South Wales records 110 new infections – as it happened
Follow all the day’s news

Lisa Cox (now) and Michael McGowan and Matilda Boseley (earlier)

21, Jul, 2021 @9:04 AM

Article image
Clive Palmer's Covid vaccine ad in News Corp paper factually wrong, regulator says
The Therapeutic Goods Administration corrects claim that Australia gave emergency use authorisation to vaccinations

Ben Butler

04, Mar, 2021 @7:56 AM

Article image
Some children aged 12 to 15 eligible for vaccine; NSW confirms 207 cases and 15th death – as it happened
Follow latest updates

Naaman Zhou (now) and Amy Remeikis (earlier)

02, Aug, 2021 @9:11 AM