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Confronting COVID ad’s message has been misinterpreted

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government had kept the “more challenging ad” ready for when it was needed and Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly had approved its release.

“[It is] a deliberately constructed ad which was prepared in anticipation of if there were a major outbreak,” he said.

“It’s challenging and it’s confronting but we know that young people can play a huge role in helping to prevent the spread of COVID simply by staying home.”

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said he was not a fan of graphic and scary ads, particularly having been around someone who was gasping for air as they died.

“I believe that you’ve got to give people information, not scare them witless, and people know what the ramifications are,” he told Channel Seven’s Sunrise program on Monday morning.


Professor Leask said the Arm Yourself ads were very safe with their “tired military metaphor”. However, she expected they met the government’s brief given the vaccine supply constraints.

“Once you have vaccine supply, I look forward to seeing much more inspiring campaigns,” she said, adding that there needed to be a broader set of messages that didn’t just appeal on a “hyper-masculine front” in order to target different communities.

Siimon Reynolds, who created the Grim Reaper AIDS awareness ads in the 1980s, says the Arm Yourself campaign is a classic example of people with no marketing experience dictating what should run.

“You can’t bore people into taking action. You must compel them to do it,” he writes in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

“We are left with a very ordinary ad that says little more than, ‘Get vaccinated’, an exhortation we have been hearing for many weeks.”

He believes the ad with the woman struggling to breathe is significantly better because it is compelling and stands out.

“We need to see more of this style of marketing and a whole lot less of the ‘Arm Yourself’ variety. And we need it fast,” he said.

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