Creativity Brand Purpose

How Wavemaker helped get urgent Covid-19 health advice to at-risk communities


By Ellen Ormesher | Reporter

April 22, 2022 | 6 min read

Wavemaker won the ’Best Inclusive Campaign’ category at The Drum Awards for Digital Advertising 2022 for its work with The Office for Health Improvment and Disparities on addressing the impact of Covid-19 on certain communities. Here, we find out more about what went into this successful project.

Public Health England data shows that certain people are at risk of more serious health complications should they contract Covid-19, including people who carry more weight and people from certain ethnic backgrounds.


The impact of Covid-19 put significant strain on the NHS

To encourage healthy lifestyles among these groups, Wavemaker made use of digital channels within a wider communications plan, leveraging trusted voices in the identified ethnic communities via online media partnerships, using regional data to up-weight social activity to densely populated areas, and tapping into passion point contexts, such as cricket, to make the broad national campaign more closely aligned to their lives, driving cultural resonance.

The brief

Two-thirds of the adult population in England is classified as overweight, one in 6 suffer from mental health issues and there are approximately 6 million smokers – which the NHS claims is putting significant strain on its services.

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Covid-19 and its physical and mental health outcomes further stretched NHS services. In an effort to ease this strain, the Better Health brand was launched back in July 2020, motivating people to make healthier choices and providing products designed to improve capability to change behaviors. The launch was a huge success with significant increases in knowledge, confidence and motivation, as well as around a million weight-loss app downloads within the first year.

However, the pandemic reinforced already existing health disparities, particularly between specific ethnic communities. Given higher obesity rates among Black and South Asian audiences, The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities needed to urgently reach and address these communities. Its marketing objectives were clear and mapped to a theory of change that hypothesized that communications had a role in increasing motivation for healthy change, increasing confidence in how to make that change and equipping people with the support tools to enable the change.

The idea

The ethnic communities identified as having higher obesity levels than population average (and therefore who are more at-risk of health complications if contracting Covid-19), were also found to have different sources of trust in comparison to the white population.

For Black and South Asian audiences, it found that ethnic-specific social and religious groups, as well as figures from within their communities, held greater influence than more traditional sources of authority, such as the mainstream media and government. During the pandemic, the government’s essential – yet undeniably numerous – health messages also meant a certain level of health fatigue had set in among the population.

The campaign needed to be driven from the ground-up to prompt healthy behaviors. Wavemaker did this across digital channels by working with Buzzfeed’s Seasoned platform (which produces content focused on the Black British experience) to deliver bespoke messaging that gave health tips to Black audiences in a trusted and community-centric environment. It then amplifyied co-produced content (that made use of trusted figures within the community to deliver key messaging) via the social pages of community radio organisations (eg Punjab Radio and Sunrise Radio). It also actively up-weighted digital activity during the summer cricket test matches involving Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India given South Asian men’s affinity with the sport.

Wavemaker found that many communities are highly geographically concentrated, eg 39% of Bangladeshis living in England reside in Tower Hamlets or Newham, so ensured DOOH and online activity delivered representative creative informed by a blend of Census and YouGov data.

The results

Even though target at-risk ethnic groups consume less mainstream media, campaign awareness was up to 20% to 30% higher among these audiences versus the wider population thanks to digital targeting and partnership work. But, more importantly, confidence and motivation for healthy change indicators increased significantly among these communities.

Confidence in the ability to do more exercise was significantly higher among all at risk ethnicities versus all adults, while confidence in the ability to eat more healthily was significantly higher among Black Africans (34%), Black Caribbeans (31%) and Indians (31%) versus white audiences (29%).

This project was a winner at The Drum Awards for Digital Advertising 2022. Here here to find out which of The Drum Awards are currently open for entry.

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