Public Health England flu jab: Can Boris sort it out?

flu“Atishoo, atishoo, we all fall down.” No, thankfully, we haven’t got coronavirus just yet but, as winter approaches, the threat of a nasty dose of flu is looming on the horizon. And we’re not talking “man flu” either; we’re talking about the serious stuff that can kill you. Cheery innit?

Well, apparently, flu kills on average 11,000 people in England each year and hospitalises tens of thousands more, and, thanks to Covid-19, in 2020 it could get a whole lot worse. So, what’s the solution? Why a revamped marketing campaign, of course, from Public Health England, NHS England and NHS Improvement (whoever they are), designed to get not just the oldies, but the over 50s too, to sign up for a flu jab. In total, 30 million people will be offered the vaccination.

Devised by M&C Saatchi, the national marketing campaign supports the ambitious programme and warns of the potential dangers of the virus, encouraging all eligible groups to get a free flu vaccine to protect themselves.

The campaign, which has been running in targeted channels since early October, enters a new phase this week, with a broader approach to reach all those eligible for the free jab and upweighted advertising on TV, radio, outdoor and digital channels to remind people not to dismiss the virus as “just the flu”.

Now, just in case you thought M&C was doing everything, media planning is by Wavemaker, media buying by Manning Gottlieb OMD, PR by Freuds and partnerships by 23Red. Meanwhile, “specialist” communications will be provided by Multicultural Marketing Consultancy (MMC) and BDS Communications, to ensure the activity reaches out to ethnic groups and disabled people.

The new “hard-hitting creative” is designed to drive home the importance of getting the flu jab by dramatising the risks of the virus (ie scaring the living daylights out of you) and positioning the vaccine as the best protection.

The approach is supposed to create empathy with the audience by reflecting a common refrain at this time of year, that “it’s just the flu”, and a series of TV spots expose the true, killer consequences of complications caused by flu and finish with a simple message to “Just get your jab”.

Bespoke ads on TV, video on demand, social, outdoor and digital activity will target vulnerable audiences, including pregnant women and those with long-term health conditions with tailored messages.

Vaccine uptake among different target groups will be monitored throughout the duration of the campaign and the media plan will be amended to upweight media targeted at audiences, or in regions, where uptake is low.

Public Health England director of marketing Alexia Clifford said: “With the simultaneous risk of catching flu and Covid-19 this winter, this campaign has a more important job than ever to encourage those who are eligible to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their loved ones.

“The campaign has been designed to support the ambitious national flu vaccination programme, and to reach a newly expanded set of audiences, some of whom we haven’t communicated with through [our] marketing activities before.”

M&C Saatchi chief executive Camilla Kemp added: “‘Just the flu’ is a phrase people use every year, to play down the severity of seasonal flu. But it’s a dangerous piece of language that ignores the true risks of this potentially deadly virus. The simple messages at the heart of this campaign are necessary, against a backdrop of Covid-19, to ensure the vaccination programme reaches more people than ever before.”

So, what is the consensus around the Decision Marketing office?

Will those of us who are eligible be quaking in our boots and rushing down to our local GP practice to get the jab?

Well, funnily enough, most places have already run out because millions of people over 50 have already had the fear of God shoved up them. It is all very well launching a major marketing campaign, but as the Hoover free flights promotion proved many moons ago, if you can’t fulfill the promise, you’re likely to get it in the neck.

Of course, this is not the fault of the agencies, they are simply getting the message across, and to be fair, they do that pretty effectively. We’re so convinced, we’re trying to book a private jab. But, come on Boris, don’t let this become yet another fiasco.

Decision Marketing Adometer: A “just a little prick, sir” 7½ out of 10

Print Friendly