Vaccine advertising moonshot: Behind the scenes of the campaign to convince Americans to get the COVID shot

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Credit: Ad Council
Credit: Ad Council

The question of whether to vaccinate sits at the center of America’s deepest sources of discontent: political hatred, racial injustice, institutional mistrust. And unlike a political campaign, which needs to persuade 50.1 percent of the voters, or a car commercial, which would be a smashing success if it captured 25 percent of consumers, this marketing blitz had to convince upward of 70 percent of the public — enough to reach herd immunity.

Against this absurdly challenging backdrop, the Ad Council and its partners embarked on a search for a message — a phrase, really — that a fractured nation could somehow agree on. 

It’s up to you? Bingo. A message for America: It’s your decision. No one is telling you to get a vaccine the way they were telling you to wear a mask. At the same time, the phrase carries a subtext of implied responsibility: It’s up to you to ask questions and get answers. It’s up to you to get back to the moments you miss.

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As a final check that the slogan would resonate with hesitaters — and that they wouldn’t interpret “It’s Up to You” as “It’s Optional” — [Charysse] Nunez tested it in a survey squeezed between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The message clicked. 

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