Toronto and Publicis fight COVID fatigue

Who: The City of Toronto and Publicis.

What: “Practice Safe 6ix,” a “public education” ad campaign to combat COVID fatigue around the city.

When & Where: The campaign launched this week and will run until the end of December on social media, transit shelters, Spotify and traditional radio.

Why: Because it’s widely believed that too many people in the 18 to 40 demo that is the campaign’s target audience have grown tired of the safety measures put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

According to a City of Toronto spokesperson, the City started to work on this campaign in early October, when it “began to hear that younger people were congregating and in some cases, not doing so safely.”

“I know we’re all tired and want to be through with COVID-19, but this virus isn’t through with us,” said councillor Joe Cressy, chair of the Toronto Board of Health, in a release announcing the campaign. “Right now, the trend in COVID cases in our city is going in the wrong direction, and it’s up to each and every one of us to do our part to keep ourselves and each other safe.”

How: A series of video ads show young people—masked, of course—bouncing to an upbeat dance track (“Like we do it” by Grace Mesa) as they tear away T-shirts to reveal different messages relating to the pandemic.

Each ad opens on an irreverent note: “This is not the plague I ordered,” reads one T-shirt, which is then pulled away to reveal a new shirt that reads “I wanted zombies.”

The light-hearted Ts are followed by more serious reminders about the need for vigilance and precaution to slow the spread of the virus.

Posters take a similar approach, with cheeky T-shirt messages complemented by more earnest headlines to deliver the safety message.

The city describes the ads as “humorous, cynical, sarcastic, clever and heartfelt.”

“It was determined that the best approach to reach the target demographic was to avoid scolding or lecturing,” said the City spokesperson.

“T-shirts are walking billboards,” added Dean Hore, group creative director at Publicis. “Using T-shirts as a communication device allows the City of Toronto to share important information with our young target without sounding like a domineering, finger-waving, know-it-all big brother or parent.”

And we quote: “COVID-19 fatigue and the lost sense of urgency among some residents is a real threat to stopping the spread of this virus. We know it is not easy but if we are all vigilant in following public health advice, we can all get through this together. This campaign helps communicate that message.” —Toronto Mayor John Tory

David Brown