With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, public service announcements have become one of the most effective tools for providing important and accurate information to the general public. The paper focuses on the analysis of a COVID-19 safety message displayed on a billboard. It is a part of the COVID-19 awareness campaign launched by the Ad Council in partnership with the White House, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“Ad Council”). The message aims to remind the general public to stay home to slow the spread of the virus. Through a combination of visual elements and clear text, the billboard effectively communicates its message, informing the audience about the threat and encouraging them to take protective measures.
Context and Intended Audience
When the COVID-19 pandemic started at the beginning of 2020, the government and healthcare organizations took immediate actions to increase public awareness. As a part of the response campaign, several national public service ads and multi-channel content was developed by the Ad Council. It is a non-profit organization with 75 years of experience in producing and distributing public service announcements, which partners with the country’s leading advertising agencies, broadcast media, and out-of-home companies (“Where Creativity and Cause Converge”). The campaign included a wide range of messages from TV commercials to Uber car tops that aimed to reach the general public with messages about social distancing, personal hygiene, and mental health.
The analyzed billboard is a part of the #AloneTogether campaign, which was created by ViacomCBS in partnership with the Ad Council. It was intended as “a national social and talent led campaign that educates audiences on the importance of social distancing and drives unity through entertainment” (“Ad Council”). The billboards for the campaign were designed by Clear Channel Outdoor, an out-of-home advertising company (“Out of Home Advertising Industry”). The creative assets focused on reaching higher-risk populations and the general public with messages on COVID-19 preventive measures.
Message and Purpose
The analyzed billboard is a public service announcement that intends to increase public awareness of the COVID-19 pandemic and encourage the population to take protective measures. In their announcement of the new campaign, ViacomCBS claimed that “by practicing social distancing and limiting interactions with others, we can help prevent coronavirus from spreading” (“ViacomCBS and NBCUniversal”). According to ViacomCBS, the billboards were designed to show audiences how to slow the spread of the virus (“ViacomCBS and NBCUniversal”). They aim to attract attention and reach the audience through clear and simple messages.
The analyzed billboard is effectively designed to achieve its purpose. It features the campaign name #AloneTogether and the message “Slow the spread of COVID-19, stay home if you can” printed in large letters on the bright yellow background (“#AloneTogether”). The message calls on the audience to stay at home during the pandemic, explaining that it will help to slow the spread of the virus. The #AloneTogether slogan is intended to show that “we can unite as one, even when we feel the most alone” (Streib). The overall message aims to bring the audience’s attention to the problem, provide them with a solution, and create a sense of unity and connection.
Design and Methods
The billboard is designed to attract the attention of viewers. It features a bright yellow background without any distracting details and the contrasting black text printed in large letters, which helps to draw the focus to the message. The text is only one sentence, which is clearly formulated to deliver the information and motivate the audience to take action. The sentence’s structure creates a logical connection between the action that the audience is encouraged to take (stay home) and the purpose that this action is aimed to achieve (slow the spread of COVID-19) (“#AloneTogether”). Overall, the billboard is designed to alert and call to action without evoking strong emotions, frightening, or shocking the audience.
Other visual elements featured in the advertisement are the #AloneTogether logo and the logos of the Ad Council and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The #AloneTogether hashtag serves both to inform the audience about the campaign that the billboard is a part of and create an emotional appeal. It reminds the citizens that they are not alone, even in isolation, and implies that together the nation can overcome the threat. The Ad Council and the CDC logos inform the viewers that the billboard is a part of an official national campaign, encouraging them to take the message seriously. Overall, it can be said that all elements of the advertisement are carefully chosen to achieve its main purpose and create the desired effect.
The analyzed #AloneTogether billboard is a successful example of a public service advertisement. It achieves its purpose of informing and motivating the audience through a combination of minimalist visual elements and clear text. It appeals to the audience’s sense of responsibility and unity and encourages them to take action to address the COVID-19 threat together. The message is clear, simple, motivating, and easy-to-understand, which are the main requirements for an effective public service advertisement.
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“Out of Home Advertising Industry Lends Platforms to Amplify Ad Council’s COVID-19 Messaging.” Ad Council, 2020, Web.
Streib, Lauren. “With #AloneTogether, the Media Industry Unites to Drive Awareness.” ViacomCBS, 2020, Web.
“ViacomCBS and NBCUniversal: #AloneTogether by the Ad Council.” The Drum, 2020, Web.
“Where Creativity and Cause Converge.” Ad Council, Web.