Case study: Reducing vaccine hesitancy


Influencer Marketing; creatives including video, social media content, advertising; media buying/programmatic advertising; evaluation dashboards; web development; vox pops filming; stakeholder engagement NHS, Councils and Public Health.


At a time of national crisis, Westco – the agency for social good working mainly with local government clients - launched a campaign to help stop the spread of Covid. In January 2021 it launched its Covid Hub for councils and NHS organisations, providing free campaign strategy and content to reduce vaccine hesitancy. Westco’s campaign hub saved lives and protected the NHS.

The challenge

Before launching we carried out research to understand previous vaccine campaigns and analysed data across Government, public health and NHS – an ongoing process as the vaccine programme moved through age groups. It helped us identify our audiences. For example; it told us that vaccine hesitancy was highest amongst:

  • Black or Black British adults (22% compared to 6% for all adults)
  • Adults in the most deprived areas (12% compared with 3% of adults in the least deprived areas).

We learnt about our audiences by holding online focus groups and running online surveys which received 26,000 returns from target audiences to understand the psychological barriers to taking the vaccine. For example, we found that those completely against all vaccines made up a small proportion of those unlikely to take the vaccine (approximately 8%). So, most were not anti-vaxxers, just cautious.

Barriers also included not trusting something developed at such speed (25%), and waiting until more people had taken the vaccine (33%).

According to the Office of National Statistics:

  • More than 9 in 10 (96%) adults reported positive sentiment towards a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, while 4% reported vaccine hesitancy.
  • Adults who were unemployed (12%) were more likely to report vaccine hesitancy than those who were in employment (4%) or retired (1%).
  • Adults living in the most deprived areas of England (based on the Index of Multiple Deprivation) were more likely to report vaccine hesitancy (8%) than adults living in the least deprived areas (2%).

The Solution

By understanding our audiences we were able to create assets attractive to that group which also answered their concerns. Our approach to media buying was influenced by our research, for example; we targeted young Ghanaian men by advertising on YouTube around African music.



Consequently, campaign messaging to vaccine-hesitant groups was realistic, reassured people the vaccines had been rigorously tested and countered misinformation.

We used influencer marketing over TikTok to drive young audiences (especially from BAME backgrounds) to a website designed by young people for young people. A group of young voices gave their views of how important vaccination was and this was balanced with a young and engaging virologist to give reassurance about safety and effectiveness.

We held weekly webinars for participating councils and health services to review data and develop new content to response to a fast-changing environment. We responded quickly to the need to develop assets to drive people to test for covid and also to boost at the right time.

Our behaviour change approach used a transtheoretical journey to decision-making:

Phases Strategy Tactics
Awareness Reach 98% of our target audience ten times. Targeted digital display advertising; organic social media content calendar; use of social media influencers on Tik Tok ranging from 1,500-15,000 followers. Done in their own voice this provoked debate amongst the target audience.
Contemplation Align messaging through organic and paid user-generated content by working with young social media influencers. Survey and re-marketing of content; engagement between social media influencers and other young people.
Preparation Use of trusted voices. Videos from trusted young doctors using everyday language which spoke to people on their own terms.
Action Development of the Everythingcovid.info microsite, with a link to the local vaccine booking site. Content (FAQs) co-written by young people for young people written in their own tone of voice to encourage other young people to take up the vaccine. Fact checked by the NHS.
Maintenance Development of ambassadors and advocates. We encouraged young people to share their stories of why they took the vaccine on social media, which included commissioning vox pops outside of vaccine centres.

From Autumn 2021 our key challenge was 18–35-year-olds. We co-designed a website with young people called Everythingcovid.info. which brought more than 180,000 young people to the microsite with 9,000 young people booking onto the NHS booking site within the first two weeks.

The results

The overall results of the campaign were impressive: the campaign overall delivered 25.1m impressions with over 10m young people reached. Click-through rates (CTR) averaged 1.12% and CTR of 1.56% for Black or Black British audiences out-performed other assets on vaccine hesitancy. We tracked demonstrable uplifts in vaccination rates during campaign phases.


From this, we have learnt how to cater campaigns to younger audiences in order to keep them engaged and challenged rather than just telling them what to do. Adverts were designed to not look like a government or council campaign, as most of the target groups had already expressed distrust towards those authority groups. For example, animations produced carried no branding except the NHS link at the end. We chose to feature content from TikTok and Instagram influencers, as well as young medical professionals, and we also worked with young people to get the tone correct and ensure that we were not talking down to the audience.


Ian Farrow, Managing Director



A multi-agency approach brought together 30 councils, 3 Clinical Commissioning Groups NHS and public health responsible for 11 million people to reach 20m young and vaccine-hesitant audiences and drive them to book appointments.


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