(Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

During this very challenging time, where is the coordinated leadership from the advertising industry? The advertising experts know how to effectively capture our attention, and communicate a convincing message? Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg Opinion points out that although there have been “… some quality PSAs already” we could use a “… more systematic effort….” We hear from the basketball star Steph Curry who has urged Americans to practice social distancing. Why is it that the best PSA so far has come from Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian who bought a billboard in New York City’s Times Square urging people to stay home.

Ford is withdrawing its national vehicle ads and replacing them with a car payment relief program. Matt VanDyke, director of U.S. marketing said that, “It’s important to be reassuring right now.” Ford customers may be able to delay vehicle payments. Ford is also giving money to support food programs for children held out of school.

Once upon a time, Smokey the Bear reminded us that people start forest fires and that we should be very careful. It was a creation of the U.S. Forest Service, The Ad Council and the National Association of State Foresters.

In the 1970’s, in conjunction with Keep America Beautiful, tearful Iron Eyes Cody reminded us that littering was defacing our nation, as the voice over said that people start pollution so people can stop it.

In the 1980s, millions of Americans watched an egg broken into a frying pan. The voice over told us that this was our brain. When the egg fried, we were told this was our brain on drugs. This communication came from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America with the creative help of two art directors, a copywriter and a creative director at Los Angeles-based agency keye/donna/pearlstein. The ad was simple, succinct and powerful, as well as compelling and memorable.

As we face a huge medical and psychological crisis, we could use some of this same focused effort by advertising and marketing experts right now. Those who do messaging best need to step up to the plate, now.

Mr. Bernstein is looking for communications from celebrities and politicians. He references the impactful communications during World War II that persuaded citizens to grow Victory Gardens. The advertising industry has grown and blossomed into a creative, digital powerhouse and yet we have nothing from it to help Americans cope and learn best behaviors.

The Reddit cofounder and venture capitalist has bought a billboard in the heart of New York City’s Times Square telling people to help slow the spread of COVID-19 by staying home and away from crowds. The billboard uses a simple phrase: “Staying home means saving lives.”

We should not have to wait for more billionaires to demonstrate selfless and noble behavior on our behalf. As the titans of Silicon Valley meet with the government on using an AI task force to fight this viral pandemic, those who know how to communicate creatively with impact need to be implementing a coherent strategic, marketing program.

The country is in a critical phase to contain the viral pandemic. The experts tell us that social distancing is a significant factor in “flattening the curve.” Achieving compliance now is imperative. This is no time for industry meetings. It is time for industry action to help persuade Americans to comply.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director at the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious diseases tells us we must “hunker down.” It would be especially helpful for the marketing and advertising industry to hunker down and draw upon the best creative minds to immediately develop and manage a synchronized campaign of best personal and social behaviors to address this crisis. Get on with it. Right now.


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