Is Australia’s COVID vaccine messaging failing?

Staff Writer 14 Jul 2021
2 mins

The most popular overseas COVID-19 vaccination campaigns have included comedy skits, well-liked celebrities, and catchy music, all using creative out-of-the-box thinking to encourage their citizens to get the jab. 

New Zealand, U.K and Singapore get creative

In New Zealand, their positive ‘Ka Kite, COVID’ campaign became an online favourite. It’s warm and funny, and incorporates the Maori language, declaring ‘Ka kite, COVID’, meaning ‘see you, COVID’ in the Maori language. 

This ad clearly targets different audiences and promotes the message that “vaccination is for the community not just the individual”. 

In the U.K, Sir Elton John and Sir Michael Caine help the NHS promote COVID jabs in a humorous 90-second ad.


Singapore’s quirky  ‘Get Your Shot, Steady Pom Pi Pi is something else entirely. A disco-themed music video featuring the main character of a popular 1990s sitcom urging people to get vaccinated in song. Cleverly, the ad appeals directly to local audiences as it’s loaded with Singlish – Singapore’s distinctive creole of English, Chinese dialects, Malay and Tamil. 

Back home, our campaigns are lacking

Meanwhile, in Australia, our ads aren’t really cutting through.  

Aimed at building confidence around COVID vaccinations, the Australian government  first announced the rollout of a $24 million ad campaign  back in January.  

Featuring medical professionals and cartoon drawings, our ads have been labelled ‘boring’, ‘ineffective’ and likened to something produced by ‘a Communist government committee’. 

Effectively infomercials, many of the ads present facts, but don’t really make you feel anything.  

And now, the latest campaign, aimed at young Australians, has sparked more criticism, with many offended by its graphic nature and poor timing.  

The latest advert shows a woman in a hospital bed gasping for air while hooked up to a ventilator. The text reads: “Covid-19 can affect anyone…Book your vaccination.” 

The ad, which began airing last week in Sydney, “is quite graphic, and it’s meant to be graphic,” Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Paul Kelly said during a recent news conference. 

Considering under 40s can’t access the vaccine until the end of the year, and young people are encouraged to wait for the Pfizer jab instead of the available AstraZeneca jab, some people feel the ad is poorly timed. 

Many took to Twitter to express frustration and anger. 


Is a fear campaign helpful?  

Well, I guess it’s got us talking.

What should Australia be doing? 

While many have praised the humour in overseas campaigns, it’s debatable whether this light-hearted approach is appropriate in Australia, where we’ve thankfully had minimal COVID cases compared to the rest of the world. 

And motivating Australians to get vaccinated is a completely different challenge to other parts of the globe where COVID-19 is a very present threat.  

But after nearly two years, surely we could have come up with something more interesting, or at worst, more effective. 


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