Time to put a vax on the barbie?
Time to put a vax on the barbie?

Where the bloody hell are the vaccination ads?

One of the left's favourite jabs at the Prime Minister is that he is no real leader, but rather an empty suit - "Scotty from Marketing".

It's a cute line custom made for Twitter, but it ignores a simple truth.

Scott Morrison's government isn't all that great at marketing, particularly when it comes to what was supposed to be our ticket out of the pandemic: mass COVID vaccination.

Last January the government announced that it was going to spend $23.9 million on ads to encourage Australians to get the jab.

Raise your hand if you can remember seeing one, or what it said.

Because rather than messaging to educate and encourage, the federal health department has produced a series of snoozy lectures and animations that make in-flight safety videos (remember those?) seem as exciting as Braveheart.

 

A still from the Australian Government's COVID vaccination campaign
A still from the Australian Government's COVID vaccination campaign

Pretty ironic given that, as head of Tourism Australia 15 years ago, Morrison signed off on the catchiest tourism ads since Paul Hogan promised to "put another shrimp on the barbie for ya".

A Department of Health spokesman told me "the national COVID-19 vaccines campaign is continually being updated to respond to the specific stages of the rollout of the Australian vaccination program.

"It is tailored to how the needs of Australians in understanding the vaccination phases, eligibility and access."

But that's a big part of the problem.

 

Paul Hogan’s iconic
Paul Hogan’s iconic "Put another shrimp on the barbie" advertisement.

Instead of letting people know that it's their turn, the ads should get people who aren't yet eligible excited for it being their turn when it comes.

Of course, there have been other problems. Health Minister Greg Hunt declaring that 100 per cent vaccination wouldn't guarantee travel surely raised the "what's the point?" factor in many minds.

So too the confused messaging around changing the advice around the AstraZeneca vaccine when it is far less risky than plenty of other medicines, including the Pill.

One ad exec told me the problem is that Australia's strategy with the vaccine rollout is to avoid offending anyone rather than to convince anyone.

"Australia's emphasis on eliminating risk extends to the campaign, but they don't realise the riskiest thing to do is to not take a risk.

 

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt’s messaging has left many Aussies confused. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt’s messaging has left many Aussies confused. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

"You can't bore people into changing their behaviour. They already have the facts, give them some emotion," he advises.

It shouldn't be that hard.

Some spots showing families reuniting at international air terminals, or game show contestants getting the flick when they wildly over-estimate vaccine risk, or a flashmob getting jabbed to Beethoven's Ode to Joy.

Anything but what we've got now.

We don't have to go as far as Singapore's all-singing, all-dancing jab ad extravaganza (well worth Googling), but if the country is ever going to get out of the era of snap lockdowns and shut borders, the government has to do a lot better job of selling vaccines - and their benefits.

 

Originally published as Where the bloody hell are the vaccination ads?