Time for a hard-hitting advertising campaign on the COVID-19 public health guidelines – Higgins

18th October 2020 - Emer Higgins, TD

It is time for a hard-hitting advertising campaign on the COVID-19 public health guidelines to encourage people to restrict their movements and reduce their social contacts, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Emer Higgins, who represents Dublin Mid West, said we really need to land the message with people that these guidelines are designed to save lives and must be adhered to. She cited the hard-hitting advertisements run by the HSE and the Road Safety Authority (RSA).

Deputy Higgins said: “Since the pandemic hit, we have all been bombarded with advertisements on our TV, our radio and even apps like Spotify. When the term Covid-19 was new to us, these ads stopped us in our tracks. They served as a reminder to take it seriously, wash our hands and maintain our social distance. Months later, they still sell that same message; but has that message become background noise, competing for our attention in a busy world? I believe so.

“The Government needs to change its tack now and work to gain people’s attention again to really emphasise the importance of restricting our movements and reducing our social contacts.

“We know what effective and emotive ads look like. The HSE run them all the time to encourage smokers to change their behaviour. The RSA run them all the time to encourage drivers to change theirs. What sets these ads apart? They share real life and hard-hitting stories of people who have lost their loved ones because of someone else’s behaviour. No one wants to be responsible for the loss of life of another person, for the grief that could be caused to a family.

“I have asked the Minister for Health to redirect the Covid-19 ad strategy to hard-hitting broadcast advertising. I have also written to both the HSE and the RSA to find out more about their advertising campaigns so we can base any new COVID-19 campaign on best practise. The HSE has confirmed to me that this type of advertising is indeed more effective in engaging the public and changing behaviours.

“Stories, not statistics, will hit home with people who need to hear the message most. Hard hitting advertisements grab our attention no matter how busy we are. Research and data prove that hard-hitting advertisements are effective ways of changing people’s behaviour.

“Target your audience is the first rule of any marketing campaigning. I am asking the Government to run these kinds of ads on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok as well as TV and radio,” concluded Deputy Higgins.


Extract from HSE response to Deputy Emer Higgins

“Inclusion of messages about the negative health effects of smoking, while stark, are more effective in changing smoking knowledge, attitudes and behaviour in a way that promotes quitting. A review of studies comparing different message types found negative health effects messages are most effective at generating increased knowledge, beliefs, positive perceived effectiveness ratings, or quitting behaviour, while there was more mixed evidence for other message types.”

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