First it was "sleeves up" – now it’s "vaccination helps": the federal government has a new advertising campaign for the Corona vaccination, which should now move even the very last vaccination skeptic to the needle. Whether this really succeeds, however, seems questionable.
Since the presentation of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s new posters and social media graphics on Monday, there has been a hail of derision and scorn, for example in the social networks. For example, sociologist Marcel Rohrlack describes the campaign on Twitter as "very German". "Graphic lack of pretension" and "moral appeals".
One user is particularly bothered by the colors of the advertising posters – because they strongly reminded of the highway toilets of Sanifair. And another simply says: "Colorless. Boring. Boring."
60 million for a bad campaign
On Sat.1 breakfast television, the campaign is cause for ridicule among the presenters. "Egale colors, only text, a phone number – why?", Daniel Boschmann wants to know. Colleague Karen Heinrichs throws herself on the studio carpet in despair in the face of the campaign, drumming her fists on the floor.
And there is also criticism of the budget for the campaign – the total cost is 60 million euros. "I do not want to make fun, but in view of the first impressions of the 60 million expensive sanifair vaccination campaign of the German government, one may already ask the question whether Rostbratwurste would not have been the better alternative for the money," writes, for example, the author Micky Beisenherz on Twitter.
Motifs with skeptical seniors
Specifically, the new vaccination campaign shows various motifs that are always captioned with the same slogan: "Vaccination helps". The sentence underneath sometimes varies, as does the image. The graphic is always rounded off with the telephone number 116 117, the number of the on-call medical service.
On Instagram, for example, the federal health ministry shared a graphic of a daughter hugging her mother. Underneath: "Vaccination helps. Also to everyone you love."
Another motif, also posted on Instagram, shows a brooding senior citizen. Among them: "Vaccination helps. Also to all, which can hear it no longer." The colors of all the ads are blue and light green.
"Inane and missing the reality"
Is the campaign really as bad as criticized in the social media? Yes, it is said also from expert circles. For Adelheid Blecke, senior marketing consultant at the Paderborn agency TMC, the advertising graphics are almost a sign of self-abandonment.
"The vaccination campaign was already very unfortunate from the beginning. But what the federal government and the responsible agency are doing now can only be described as resignation," Blecke tells RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND). "Apparently, they have now given up trying to reach vaccine-skeptical people. The appeals on the posters are simply stupid and completely out of touch with these people’s reality."
The campaign is obviously aimed at people who have not yet wanted to be vaccinated. "We are also trying to get into many target groups; to reach citizens who have not been reached by the various information activities so far," Chancellor Scholz said at a press conference on Monday.
However, according to Blecke, the campaign does not achieve precisely this goal. "There are probably many reasons why people don’t get vaccinated or are still hesitating. But I’m not going to reach these people with a campaign like this – and they’re certainly not going to be educated. The appeal ‘vaccination helps’ is far too short-sighted."
Apart from that, the campaign is also graphically unimaginative and loveless: "It’s an admission of helplessness," says Blecke. "Simply showing a person like a senior citizen with a somewhat brooding expression on his face, and not even in an environment that would have an autonomy. You can also write ‘Sanifair’ underneath, or ‘Herbal sweets menthol’ or ‘Senior residence Ibiza’, it’s completely interchangeable," says the expert.
The photos looked like something out of a stock photo catalog – and what’s more, they weren’t even emotional. This also applies to the picture showing a daughter and mother. "You could have really made something emotional out of this picture. Such a motif has the potential to move to tears. But a daughter with her back turned and a mother smiling a little at the camera just don’t do it."
An advertisement that avoids conflict
Vaccination campaigns from other countries show that things can be done differently. In Singapore, for example, men and women danced an entire musical in the summer to promote vaccination. In the UK, Elton John and Michael Caine promoted vaccination in a funny commercial. And in France, of course, they advertised with love: one poster shows a couple kissing intimately. Below that, the sentence, "Yes, the vaccine can have side effects. With every vaccination, life goes on – let’s vaccinate."
We can still learn a lot in Germany when it comes to vaccination communication. Here is an example from France. #vaccinate pic.twitter.com/GAMdef8Aq9
— Ricarda Lang (@Ricarda_Lang) July 7, 2021
Adelheid Blecke also finds the campaign from France successful. It is the tongue-in-cheek reference to the side effects that sticks in the mind. In Germany, he said, people have shied away from such conflict.
"I think it’s typically German not to go too far out on a hot topic like this," Blecke says. The mood is very heated anyway with the "lateral thinking" movement and the debate about compulsory vaccination. "I see the campaign as a kind of avoidance of conflict. But that doesn’t get us anywhere. We have to endure the conflicts, and that also in such campaigns. If the campaign does not contribute to conflict resolution, then it is simply irrelevant."
Blecke can imagine that the "lowest common denominator" was simply sought in the campaign. Unlike in France, such campaigns would probably have to be coordinated with the federal states – and then a compromise would usually emerge. "And it’s not always good."
The advertising expert believes it would have been much better to issue an invitation to discourse in the campaign. "Looking closely at the different reasons vaccination skeptics actually have – and then addressing them specifically. The campaign doesn’t even try to do that."
Adelheid Blecke is not the only one from the industry who holds this opinion. Mike Kleib, founder of the communication agency Goodwillrun described the vaccination campaign at "W&W" for example as "communicative capitulation".
"Way below the usual level"
If one fishes in the target group of the unvaccinated, "why one did not take – only one example – then a former vaccination opponent, who decided now nevertheless for the pin prick. Why not tell your story? Why does it have to be oldschool campaign posters, why is it not a contemporary format like a Netflix or Amazon Prime documentary?", asks Kleib.
The campaign’s creative output, they said, was "far below the level you usually get from esteemed colleg:ues. The suspicion that there might have been more creative and better proposals is almost obvious. That only those responsible on the side of the federal government purposefully chose the most boring version."
The responsible agency Scholz& Friends would not comment on the campaign when asked by RND and refers to its clients, the German government.
There, at any rate, people seem to continue to stand behind the campaign. On the Instagram page of the Ministry of Health the motives with the two seniors appeared in the meantime – from view of Adelheid Blecke the completely wrong target group speech.
"This is where you should have found a very different approach to young people. Either by addressing them specifically – because after all, young people also have concerns. Or by showing them ways to address worriers within the family itself." This, however, will not achieve any of them.
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