Government must flood the media with its coronavirus message

Australia’s greatest weapon in defeating the AIDS virus in the 1980s was the advertising campaign called “The Grim Reaper” which warned people about the need to practise safe sex. It was fearless and graphic and it worked.

Unfortunately, more than a month into the coronavirus epidemic the government has still not produced anything like it.

Of course, this is a crisis and the government is busy, however, launching a public information campaign should have been its first priority. It is much cheaper, easier and more effective than the lockdowns and closures of whole industries, which have been the focus until now.

The government should have launched what Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone called a “consistent and loud and penetrating, managed message” on social media, television, radio, print and everywhere else. It should have been targeted locally and nationally, at the old and the young, indeed at each different group of our community.

The government invited tenders from ad agencies on March 3 and allocated $30 million to an advertising campaign two weeks ago but so far its main tools of communication with the public have been press conferences by politicians and a few infographics on social media with limp slogans like “Why social distancing matters”.


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