In 2022, year three of the COVID-19 pandemic, life was quickly returning to normal. Many countries had enjoyed their ‘Freedom Day’, abolishing most anti-Covid measures. And people weren’t having to rely upon reading each other’s expressions from their eyes alone.
Yet, while restrictions were lifting, many communities were still at risk of high virus transmission intensity, lack of immunity and access to life saving tools. And whilst access to vaccines had increased, many remained vulnerable to severe disease and death.
So, with a remit to help the world understand why to continue to protect itself from the deadly COVID-19 virus, the WHO was faced with the challenging but essential task of re-engaging individuals across the globe with vital anti-COVID precautions that save lives.
To succeed, we had to work smarter: taking a precise approach that recognised that each region faced different levels of COVID-19 risk depending on their epidemiological and vaccination context.
The WHO’s task was set: find a way to regain the world’s attention to fight COVID-19 together, by protecting themselves through the 6 key precautionary measures.
With COVID-19 having become embedded in daily life since 2020, the WHO, as a global organisation, needed to:
address the growing fatigue of pandemic-related messaging
communicate tailored messages based on the relevant context within each country
create an impactful campaign that was visually eye-catching with a thumb-stopping message.
To provide impactful relevance, and generate valuable insight, two approaches were developed.
1. CONTEXTUALISING THE MESSAGE BY COUNTRY RISK
The WHO used global health data to structure the campaign based on the current COVID-19 situation in each region, leveraging transmission risk levels and vaccination rates per country to inform messaging. This helped the WHO match the most critical messaging to the most relevant country, increasing the impact of each ad.
Here is how the campaign was broken down, grouping countries and their specific messaging:
Countries with high transmission and high vaccination rates = reminding people that COVID is still around and highlighting the risk of "Long-COVID.”
Countries with high transmission and low vaccination rates = highlighting the importance of vaccination to prevent severe disease and death.
Countries with low transmission and high vaccination rates = reminding people that COVID is still around and to continue to take precautions.
Countries with low transmission and low vaccination rates = encouraging people to get vaccinated before the next wave arrives.
2. A/B TESTING
The WHO wanted to test what creative messaging resonated best, so designed two sets of creative; one more hard-hitting and factual in nature, and the other softer and more explanatory. These two sets were run simultaneously in order to provide statistically relevant learnings on message framing for the WHO’s future campaigns.
The paid campaign was run across Meta platforms including Facebook and Instagram, across a range of placements, to maximise the reach and impact across the world. While in the first phase Carousel Ads were leveraged, the second phase used static image tiles, adding an additional layer of learning and maximising the potential impact.
A multi-cell Meta Brand Lift Study was also deployed (allowing accurate testing of multiple variations at once) to help understand the impact of the WHO’s campaign and messaging across the world. While Brand Lift Studies are typically used to measure the impact on a brand, the WHO took an innovative approach by using the tool to track shifts in people’s perceptions towards COVID-19 protective measures and COVID-19 vaccines (rather than just the impact on the WHO brand).
Whilst many campaigns talk about exceptional reach, impressions, and engagements, the priority for the WHO was a more fundamental goal: safeguarding lives and helping the world’s population stand up to the biggest pandemic of our time.
The greatest achievement of this campaign was that it motivated 32 million people to continue safeguarding themselves from the virus with 6 anti-Covid measures for a third year.
The WHO’s campaign cut through the coverage surrounding Covid:
reaching an impressive 1.1 billion people - 1 in 8 people on the planet
gaining 5.5 billion impressions across 84 countries
engaging 24 million people across Meta’s platforms who didn’t just stop scrolling to look, but to share, like, or comment.
Regarding messaging types, the early data suggests that given the right context, it’s clear that both hard-hitting as well as softer approaches can be successful. This demonstrates once again the importance of tailoring messages and content towards audience needs.
Based on these Meta “Brand Lift Study” results, the WHO further adapted the assets into eight additional languages and localised content through WHO’s regional and country offices.
The campaign worked beyond paid placements, too, reaching over 370 million organically on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Again, the campaign was shared, liked, and commented upon 6.8 million times.
In short, the WHO channelled cutting-edge creativity and tech to help humanity protect itself against this disease.
The ultimate campaign effect? To uphold the WHO’s mission to help safeguard the preciousness of every life around the world.