Home > NewsRelease > Bring Back Harry & Louise! Covid Ads Dip; Cases Spike
Bring Back Harry & Louise! Covid Ads Dip; Cases Spike
Brian A. Hampton Brian A. Hampton
Arlington, VA
Tuesday, August 24, 2021



Independent Advertising to Encourage Vaccines Dives;

Pres. Biden and Federal Agencies Urged to Take Action

                                                           Brian Hampton

     It's time to bring back Harry and Louise!  They would be the married couple in the iconic commercials that shaped the dialogue about health care for a decade and a half.

    There are now more COVID cases than any time since February, about 140,000 new cases a day.  At the same time, the amount of paid advertising to convince Americans to get vaccinated is 1/5th of what it was in May.

     People can say the federal  government is doing a lot to encourage people to get vaccinated, but it is clearly not working well at all.  Current efforts are not effective or enough.

     Meanwhile, "they" are putting lives in grave peril.  The 30% of those ignorant people in the U. S. who are eligible for the vaccine and have not gotten it, are putting the fully vaccinated at risk.  This category is a staggering 90,000,000 people.

     Ignorant of course does not mean stupid, it means uninformed.    How is it that these people "did not get the memo" how efficacious the vaccines are?

     They are Persuadable Because They Just Don't Know

     A common belief is that the remaining unvaccinated people can not be persuaded.  Believing such nonsense and failing to take effective action could bring 100s of thousands of more unneeded deaths. People can be persuaded if they are approached in the right way with the right information.

     A truly creative and comprehensive communications campaign can stamp out much of the ignorance.  For example, a vast number of the unvaccinated are hesitating because they can not afford the vaccine.  They do not know they are all free.

    Many people think the vaccines have been rushed into production.  Of course, they have, but they are all vetted and approved. Many fear the side effects; there are almost none.  Many don't trust the government or other institutions.  That is very understandable, but not a defensible reason for not getting the vaccine.

     Many people are taking a wait and see approach.  Wait for what? Some feel their fertility will be compromised.  Wrong again.  Many feel they are young and healthy and have nothing to fear.  Think again.

     Many people believe their faith will protect them.  Faith is an incredible attribute for a good life, but not to prevent catching a virus. In a far different category are those who believe that the government is using vaccines to microchip the population. Really.

     Governments, officials and media types at all levels have been urging people for months and months to get vaccinated.  We don't need the talking heads on TV to tell us yet again what we already know; with the variants and the need for booster shots, we need far more people to be persuaded to get  vaccinated.  But how?  Bring back Harry and Louise!

     About the most impactful series of commercials of all time portrayed a fictional middle-class married couple who discussed various healthcare issues at their kitchen table.

                     Meet Up Again:  Harry & Louise

     Harry and Louise first hit the airways in September of 1993 and were so persuasive, they were reprised for various healthcare issues for 15 years, including a parody at the Academy Award in 2006.

     In 2009 the couple appeared in yet another commercial supporting the health-care initiative of President Obama.  The ad was sponsored by Families USA and a pharmaceutical trade group.

     Of course, Amendment X of our constitution says that the powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved for the states.

But the "Vesting Clause" Article II Section 1 of the Constitution says that "The executive power shall be vested in the President of the United States."

     Within the Executive Branch, the President has broad powers to manage national affairs and the priorities of government.  Few disagree with the concept of a "Unitary Executive" who has vast powers to direct executive officers, to issue Executive Orders to create rules, regulations and instructions.

     The President has the right in law and conscience to take bold and organization actions during this seemingly endless rolling national health energy.

            Take Bold Action; Save Many Thousands of Lives

    Others have stepped up with paid advertising, notably the Ad Council with "It's Up to You," Budweiser (free beer), the NFL, Walmart, among many, and even Mitch McConnell has bought radio ads in Kentucky urging people to get vaccinated.

     But those efforts have been almost imperceptible.  Do you suppose anyone at the White House has called up any large advocacy organization or political action committee to make the case to roll out a real heavy-duty campaign? 

    Do you think they have brought their full power and influence to bear?  They should be making the call with the message: "Consider helping save an untold number of lives by producing and paying for some kitchen table commercials that explain in everyday terms why everyone should get vaccinated"

    If the White House had really weighed in, we would have seen a raft of persuasive commercials to convert those who don't know what they don't know.

    Still 30% are unvaccinated and in some states, it is as high as 60%.

The federal government can and should be doing plenty.  When I was at the Federal Trade Commission, I directed an earned media consumer education campaign.

           They Work for Us; Get to Work, Save Lives!

     We have 15 Cabinet Executive Departments that employ 4 million people.  A few of these departments have issued various mandates for vaccines and testing of federal workers, which helps, but not remotely enough. To use a "Washington speak" term,  all these Departments employ "robust" communication departments.

    The President does not have to even issue an Executive Order or even convene a full Cabinet meeting, he barely has them anyway.

He merely communicates with every Cabinet Secretary.

     1.) He tells them all he wants them to roll out an all -encompassing earned media campaign making the many educational arguments why people should get the vaccines.

    Each of these communication departments should have 100s of these direct email journalist contacts. These releases can be in a myriad of categories: news updates about those new cases of COVID and what percent are vaccinated and how many are not.  They can be feature stories about human interest stories.  They can relate all the reasons people should be vaccinated.

      Can and should Cabinet Departments be conducting such campaigns?  Of course.   But where these "free media" campaigns exist, they are about the departments' efforts to "contain and mitigate" COVID within their departments

          Have You Seen This Commercial?  Anyone?

     Health and Human Services sponsors a "vaccine education live services."  Have you seen it?  Anyone? Anyone?  Anyone?

    The Department of Education for example can help to frame and repeat the issues to educators nationwide and through their multiplier channels.   The Department of Labor can especially help various categories of workers.

      The Department of Commerce is ideal to reach people employed by businesses.  HUD? Yes.  Transportation? Yes. Interior? Yes. Energy? Yes. Agriculture? Yes. Treasury? Yes.  Veterans Affairs?  There are 20 million veterans in the U. S, all reachable by the VA.

     Should any Department be exempted?  DHS? DOD? State? Maybe, but probably not.

     2.) Then another earned media angle, is the long neglected Public Service Announcements that are especially suited for radio and TV stations.  After all, the Federal Communications Commission strongly encourages that such stations report such public service come renewal time.

    3.)  Finally, the actual paid commercials.  But paid advertising has nearly disappeared by earlier standards; it was five times more prevalent in May than it is now.

            Too Much of a Good Thing is Wonderful!

      It is overtime for the federal government to join the parade with paid commercials.  Unseemly?  Can't do that?  The Texas Department of State and Health Services has run low budget ads.  Florida has joined in as well, among other states.

     The nay-sayers will say but we are already doing a lot.  Of course, we are, but not enough when Over 1,000 people a day are dying of COVID. Still about 30% of eligible Americans are not vaccinated.  Educating and persuading even 10% of the population to get vaccinated is doable and could make a huge difference.

     The nay-sayers will say but we are already doing a lot.  Of course, we are, but not enough.  As Mae West, the  Silver Star Siren  of yesterday said, "Too much of a good thing, could be wonderful!"

                                                            Brian Hampton                                                     703-742-9349
















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