When the launch of covid vaccinations was announced in late 2020, social media instantly became flooded with dangerous myths, creating suspicion and mistrust. The Westco research team observed that there was a huge vaccine-hesitant audience who were not engaging with government messaging and were being targeted by fake news and disinformation.
Many councils were sharing the Government-approved messaging but it was having limited cut-through. We realised that every council in the country had the same challenge and most needed better digital creative and a better delivery strategy. We decided to create campaigns that targeted those hard to reach audiences in more creative and engaging ways, and offer them to councils for free.
Our campaigns were designed to engage audiences and be less didactic, using the same matter-of-fact language and visual tactics as many of the those spreading fake news, but we were giving them the real facts instead. They were designed to not look like a government/council campaigns, as most of the target groups had already expressed distrust towards those authority groups on this issue. So the animations carried no branding except the NHS link at the end.
As the pandemic evolved, and the vaccine programme gathered pace, the messaging and audiences changed. We continued to evolve the creative to be relevant to both. First addressing concerns around the speed and efficacy of the vaccine, then moving on to messages about fertility, long-Covid, Omicron and boosters.
CAN (the Council Advertising Network) partnered with us and were able to target and retarget audiences programmatically across social media, particularly Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. More than 30 councils signed up and run some or all of the assets. These included Brent, Hackney, Haringey, Hertfordshire, Hounslow, Luton, Milton Keynes, Reading, Richmond, Sutton, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest and Wandsworth. Nottingham, Greater Manchester, Bedfordshire and others. The engagement levels were incredibly high. Click through rates ranged from 2.5% - 7.6%, against the Government’s own campaign that averaged a 1.1% click through.
The campaign had more than 34m impressions since January 2021, the largest being Facebook with over 10m impressions, and a click through rate of 3.53%. More than 450,000 have people clicked through to the relevant NHS information pages from our campaign assets. While our campaigns were very successful at driving people to the NHS webpages, we realised that there was still a need for an information destination that spoke to young people. Most council information pages were very dry and did not speak their language.
So we decided to create one ourselves. Everythingcovid.info is a platform built by us as a place where young people could see vox-pops and videos from people the same age, discussing the vaccine and testing programmes. We featured content from TikTok and Instagram influencers, as well as young medical professionals. We worked with a youth council team to ensure we got the tone correct and were not talking down to the audience, and that the site had a structure appealing to the under-25s.
Council and NHS clinical commissioning groups could buy into the platform and use it as a destination for their communications, without it obviously being a council website. Eight councils and two CCGs got involved, with several requesting mirror sites that could be uploaded with content particular to their region. In the first six months of its life, more than 180,000 young people visited the site, with 5% going on to book their vaccines or booster jabs.