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COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy: new ads aim to push back against concerns

Yahoo Finance’s Akiko Fujita and Zack Guzman speak with Michelle Hillman, Ad Council Chief Campaign Development Officer, about tackling COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Of course, the vaccine and the rollout around that and the return to normal still looms rather large for what growth is going to look like in the back half of the year. And for more on encouraging Americans to get their vaccinations, we are seeing an interesting push from the Ad Council around ads, teaming up with some big name media partners, including Facebook and Disney, to roll out some much needed facts on the vaccine. Front take a listen to their latest vaccine spot.

- As the COVID-19 vaccines become available, you might be asking yourself, should I get it? And if I do, will I be able to go about life without putting my family at risk? You've got questions, and that's normal. The fact is the vaccines are safe and effective. They are going to save lives.

ZACK GUZMAN: So for more on the big PSA push on the vaccine front, let's bring in Ad Council Chief Campaign Development Officer Michelle Hillman back on the show with us again today. Michelle, good to be chatting with you again. Talk to me about this push and how impactful it's being in actually getting Americans to want to take up vaccines around the country.

MICHELLE HILLMAN: Absolutely. Thanks for having me back again, Zack. And you know, as we talked about last time, COVID-19 is really the biggest public health crisis that we've ever seen. And to meet the need, we need to have the largest communications campaign that we've had in Ad Council history, as far as size, scale, scope, and urgency. We're really putting this campaign together to help people overcome hesitancy and move them to confidence, getting them the facts they need so that they can make empowered health care decisions for themselves and their families.

And like you said, we've put together a broad coalition of medical experts, the media community, the creative community, all banding together, to really put the premise out there that we understand that people have questions. That's normal. This is something new. They should be asking questions. And we've developed a wonderful website where people can go and get the facts that they need at getvaccineanswers.org. They can understand and educate themselves-- so that when it's their turn to get the vaccine, they feel like they're empowered to make the right decision for themselves and their families.

So we're bringing a lot of people together. We're really doubling down our efforts in communities of color. We know that they have been over indexed on how COVID has impacted them. And we know that their hesitancy is higher. And we want to make sure that we develop really culturally relevant, specific communications with many, many messengers to meet them where they are and hopefully get people the information they need.

AKIKO FUJITA: And Michelle, how do you do that? The last time we spoke, you know, you talked about how this can't be a one size fits all approach, particularly as it relates to Black and Hispanic communities. What are you finding is the most effective messaging? And who is the messenger?

MICHELLE HILLMAN: Absolutely. So our campaign we're launching today is called, It's Up to You. And that really is embodying the empowerment that people are looking for. This is really a personal choice. People want to protect themselves and their family members. And they need all the information at their fingertips to be able to do so. Our approach has been super research-based. We spent a lot of time with people in these communities.

And we know that this message of leaning into their questions, reminding them of hugging their grandbabies and being able to go back to worship and sending their kids to school, is the right formula to get them to want more information. And we're working with the faith-based community. We have a national steering committee of 22 influential faith leaders across the country that are bringing messages down into the communities. We're partnered with NAACP, UnidosUS, and other grassroots organizations that are at the community level-- are already trusted messengers for the communities we're talking about.

And we know we're leaning into health care providers, right-- doctors, nurses, pharmacists. They're all influencers and messengers for this important message. So you'll see athletes and musicians and others. But it's really about, you know, a big swath of trusted messengers all sort of singing from the same song sheet, empowering people with information.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah. And Michelle, your guys' corporate partners on here is a legitimate who's who of everybody in the media and tech and corporate space. You got Facebook on board. You got Alphabet Google. You got Pinterest, our parent company, Verizon, TikTok, Twitter, you name it. Everyone's pretty much all hands together on this. So what's been kind of the biggest corporate contribution in this push? Is it more just providing funds or is it using those networks? What's maybe a standout on the corporate front for you guys?

MICHELLE HILLMAN: Yeah, I mean, it's really all of them. Listen-- I mean, we are really fortunate at the Ad Council. We have a long history of convening the best and brightest, you know, in corporate America and our industry to rally behind important messages, and in this case, I mean, it has been overwhelming. You know, the first phone call we get from everybody is, how can I help? So you mentioned it, but I think really, sure, there's some funding that's helped to produce the ads and helping with some of the media.

But more importantly, you know, people are really kind of doubling down and using their channels and their authentic brand voice to lean into moments that really resonate with their consumers, provide factual information. You know, Verizon's been an amazing partner. They launched an ad today-- really kind of a call to the entire industry, asking them to get on board, to get behind this message with us. Google as well is launching another campaign tomorrow, really leaning into their influencer network.

Everyone's bringing sort of their own personal authentic talents and resources and audience to bear. And we're hoping that, you know, if everybody leans into It's Up to You-- and we sort of can nuance as we go, but we're all in the collective-- that will drive enough people to getvaccineanswers.org to get the information they need and get their questions answered.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, education really going to be key to trying to get to that 300 plus million getting vaccinated. We'll be looking forward to seeing some of those ads there. Michelle Hillman, Ad Council Chief Campaign Development Officer, it's always good to talk to you.