MediaSmarts campaign fights COVID by fighting misinformation

Who: MediaSmarts, with Church+State for creative and strategy, Airfoil Media for production, Bellzon Studio for animation, Grayson Music Group for voice and sound, and Craft & Crew for app development.

What: “Check first. Share after,” a new campaign for the digital literacy not-for-profit asking Canadians to be more mindful of the things they share on social during the COVID crisis.

When & Where: The campaign launched Wednesday on TV, radio, digital/social and podcast. Corus, Bell Media and Facebook are all on board as sponsors to help with distribution. There is also some original content and amplification from a handful of Canadian personalities.

Why: Because the spread of bad information right now isn’t just a nuisance; it can actually do real harm and cost lives.

“We all want to help our friends and family by sharing info with them, but we can truly show we care by being good digital citizens and taking a moment to pause and check if it comes from a trusted expert source—like the Public Health Agency of Canada or a reputable news outlet—before sharing it,” said Kathryn Ann Hill, executive director of MediaSmarts.

How: The campaign is built around the idea that if you want to help fight COVID—and you’re not on the front lines caring for patients, working on a vaccine or building ventilators—you can help by stopping the spread of misinformation.

The campaign site,, includes a custom Google search that limits results to trusted sources, downloadable sharing buttons and content from the University of Alberta’s Health Law Institute.

The ad creative uses messaging featuring a positive and high-energy tone said Church+State founder Ron Tite. “It’s about action, and about being positive—there’s something you can do, as opposed to lecturing people about what they shouldn’t do.

“That’s why the line, ‘Check first. Share after’ is really critical. Because a lot of people will think, when messaging like this comes out, that they shouldn’t share. And of course that’s not realistic, that’s lecturing.”

How were the Canadian influencers used: “We gave them the assets and said, ‘If you want to just retweet and share this go for it.’ But we also gave them the option and said—because this platform is so flexible—it’s really easy for you to insert your own lines,” said Tite. Participants include Dragons’ Den’s Michele Romanow, The Debaters’ Steve Patterson, chef Matt Basile, Olympian Sarah Wells and others (see Romanow’s video below).

How this was different for Church+State: “We committed to [MediaSmarts] that we would do a couple things,” said Tite. “We would decrease our fee to provide some amplification dollars, and that we would do it in record time. From our perspective, every day we delayed, potentially somebody could die. And so I just never felt that sense of urgency before.” The campaign went from first briefing in mid-April to in-market in barely a month.

And we quote: “The fight against false and misleading online information is essential, especially in these uncertain and difficult times. We are very proud to support the work MediaSmarts is doing to empower Canadians and help them identify and obtain reliable information on COVID-19 for their own safety and the safety of those around them.” —Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage.

David Brown