Toronto’s creative campaign shows it’s heroic to get vaccinated



Vaccination Toronto’s creative campaign shows it’s heroic to get vaccinated

To encourage healthy kids to get the flu jab, Toronto Creative reached out to “a diversity of parents who aren’t big on vaccines but want their children to thrive”. The city’s school boards have even taken the unusual step of appointing a special doctor to speak to parents about the safety of vaccination.

The campaign, which launched last month, contains a series of stickers that are attached to paraphernalia throughout schools and child care centres. To stay stickable, they have to be flipped over three times to give them a proper stickiness.

Even scarier is a film that features a fictitious fake Facebook page entitled I am Giving The Flu Shot, which was created for the ad campaign by Toronto-based creative company Marlant Public Works. It’s played for laughs by “Silent Voice”, but the underlying message is serious. That’s because Toronto Public Health says influenza complications (including pneumonia) can lead to death.

“We wanted to have an impact and really stick with people,” says James Pezic, an agency partner and director of creative for Toronto Creative. “At the end of the day we did it because the community needs to be informed.”

Jenny Lavergne, Vancouver public health physician, says that the campaign could help “perpetuate things like home visiting programs, free flu clinics and vaccines at school”.

The campaign might also put a smile on some parents’ faces. But parents have mixed feelings about it.

David Okulitch, Vancouver blogger and father of two young children, says he first heard about the campaign when his wife posted about it on Facebook. “The stickers are annoying,” he says. “But I’m not sure how you’re able to get them stuck on a picture frame without something happening to the picture.”

Olexitova adds that the campaign might actually be confusing. “I’ve seen stickers on school furniture, but not on things that can be scratched off.”

Okulitch isn’t the only parent who has created a Facebook page for the campaign. Bill Sandou of Vancouver created a group called I am giving the flu shot. Since November 6, it has over 2,000 members. “I liked the idea of a fun, tongue-in-cheek approach that would get people’s attention,” he says. “And the stickers might actually make it easier to spot.”

He adds that he hadn’t gotten the flu shot since the 1980s and the idea of sticking stickers on to his kids’ magnets made him think he should get one. “I told them it was OK and not to worry about it.”

Vancouver parents have been more protective of their children since the 1980s. “By then we had already implemented home visiting programs and there was a vaccination rate of over 97%,” says Lavergne.

Concerns about immunisation were just as prevalent in Victorian Britain in the 1800s as they are today. One family adopted the famed health home movement, which promoted clean eating and natural remedies.

However, given the success of vaccination programs in recent decades, it’s surprising that Vancouver Public Health isn’t advertising the steps to take in order to prevent illness.

Jenny Lavergne, Vancouver public health physician. Photograph: Sean Cleary/EPA

In Surrey, B.C., a new washroom sticker campaign encouraging parents to bring their children to school with a flu shot will come to life. Parents at Addington elementary school will be greeted on opening day with signs featuring a faux video from the documentary Two Pigeons and a Baby saying: “I hope we get a flu shot before our school starts because not everyone gets the flu shot.”

Parks Canada introduced “cookie packs” last year in an effort to encourage Canadians to walk more. But Vancouver Public Health has decided to embrace the trend, which has kicked off a conversation about the role of city-level messaging to change behaviour in Canada.

“This is a good example of a creative approach that can be sustainable,” says Lavergne. “I like it a lot.”

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