the problem with COVID public health advertising

Credit: United Nations

The U.S. set another record today in the COVID-19 - 4 million cases nationwide. With all due respect to news producers, we're not "all in this together." The statistics obscure the individual pain of survivors, the dead, and the guilt-ridden who gave it to someone else.

Reality is called for here, not kumbaya. Show patients stuck on gurneys in hospital hallways; the people who survived COVID-19 who may wish they hadn't; and the guilt of asymptomatic sons and daughters who fatally infected a loved one. We need to pull out the guilt, shame, and fear playbook.

Friends, family, and co-workers have a role, too. Be blunt about risky behavior, safety needs, and theirs, and get clear about the risks. Young people need to know that the guilt of infecting a brother or sister might be worse than contracting the virus themselves. And marketers can help by modeling these conversations.

Marketers should pluck out the shame, guilt, and embarrassment cards that helped turn the tide during the AIDS outbreak, the war on drugs, and numerous anti-smoking campaigns. We need to develop a healthy paranoia about COVID safety, the dangers of laughing at a good joke, singing with a choir, or yelling and how they can become super-spreading incidents.

We're not "all in this together" anymore than we're all together in traffic fatalities. It's up to everyone to protect themselves from the pain of dying or surviving the virus, and the guilt of passing it to someone else. No, it's not nice, but it is necessary.

Bill Abramovitz