Toronto agency Public introduces a new measure of distance: the ‘Hanks’

In some ways, Tom Hanks became the face of COVID-19 when he announced that he and his wife Rita Wilson had tested positive for the illness on March 11. For many in North America, the actor was the first person they “knew” who had contracted the illness, and suddenly it felt more real and serious.

Now, Hanks’ face—well, his whole body, actually—is being used by Toronto-based social impact agency Public to remind us to keep taking coronavirus seriously and adhere to the social distancing guidelines as the economy starts to reopen.

Hanks is six-feet tall, you see, and as we all know by now, that’s how much space we need to maintain from others when out in public.

Public has created life-sized Tom Hanks floor decals for the inside and outside of stores around Toronto. They’re calling the initiative “HanksForDistancing.”

Public has already been working with clients to help them get through the pandemic, creating a free resource page with readings, links and learning to provide additional direction to anyone who needed it.

“But as a social impact agency we wanted to do more so came up with this fun campaign to drive the right behaviour,” said Public CEO and founder Phillip Haid.

Two LCBO locations are already using the decals, and Public is pushing them through social media and earned media using #HanksForDistancing and some geo-targeting. Since introducing the decals Wednesday, other retailers have started to reach out, said Haid.

And what about Hanks himself? Did Public have to ask permission for something like this? The company did buy the rights to Hanks’ image, said Haid, but it is also hoping that the actor himself will endorse the initiative.

Hanks has been vocal about the importance of safety measures to help stop the spread of the virus. “We are reaching out to him to hopefully get him engaged,” said Haid.




David Brown