Keith Weed: brands must help people enjoy summer safely

Keith Weed, president of the Advertising Association, argues that if brands band together to spread crucial public health messages, this industry can play a vital role in rebuilding consumer confidence and rebooting the economy.

Lockdown’s impact on our industry has been seismic, but it’s just a small part of the much greater impact that has been felt right across the UK. Everywhere you look there are the very real threats of job losses and the rising concerns of an economy that will not recover quickly or enough to stave off a recession that will hurt all. This is why we need to step forward as an industry, with brands and their advertising and marketing partners providing as much support as we can to the UK's ‘Enjoy Summer Safely’ campaign.

It is on us, the communicators, to help amplify public health messages, including important safety first facts around social distancing, hand washing, face coverings, surface cleaning and customer logging. If we do this well, it will allow our economy to reopen and consumers to emerge from the strains of lockdown with growing confidence. Confidence is the central factor here and everyone who works in our industry knows from years of experience and research that there is nothing like advertising to breed confidence, both in the business that is advertising and in the customers that brands are seeking to serve.

‘Enjoy Summer Safely’ has been specifically developed as a campaign that any brand can engage with a growing coalition of partners. It already has the backing of more than 30 brands including brands that can support the essential behaviours such as Carex and Dove on hand-washing, Domestos and Dettol on cleaning surfaces and O2 and EE on social distancing, who are all supporting the critical public health messages required to achieve a safer easing of the lockdown through their own advertising campaigns.

I urge all readers involved in advertising campaigns now to think how can they include key messaging around ‘Enjoy Summer Safely’. Think how powerful it will be if we can deliver those messages everywhere a consumer might come into contact with an ad, how much this will reinforce the need for safety-first behaviour by consumers and reassure a nervous public what they need to do to be safe and that people know what it means to behave responsibly.

I have been working with the team behind the campaign at Public Health England as we set it up to include partners from sectors including retail, telecoms, finance, hospitality, accommodation and manufacturers of household brands. Every partner will be provided with a campaign lock-up as well as campaign resources on brands’ own channels. Anybody interested in joining the coalition should contact Helen Hampton, deputy director – partnerships at Public Health England: helen.hampton@phe.gov.uk or Jane Asscher, strategic advisor – Partnerships: jane.asscher@23red.com.

2020 has been a truly extraordinary year so far. As a result of the lockdown, we couldn’t run our usual annual President’s Reception at the Advertising Association. Instead, we recorded a special film where I was joined by our chair, Philippa Brown and chief executive, Stephen Woodford and I invite you all to join us here. It feels a very long time ago to me, but we launched our new mission at the start of the year to show how responsible advertising can make a real positive contribution to the people, society, businesses and the economy of the UK.

Covid-19 brought how important that mission is into stark relief and the rapid turnaround in support from brands during lockdown to reinforce messages like ‘Stay Home’ was brilliant. It was precisely the response we needed to see and, from what I can see, brands that did it well are already reaping the rewards of a strong, more engaged and trusted relationship with their consumers. Let’s be clear; there is a huge benefit to the brands that do the right, responsible thing during this crisis.

The UK desperately needs brands to do exactly the same thing now to help rapidly rebuild consumer confidence as the lockdown eases. Now is the time for all brands who can to help mainstream vital public health messages by joining this coalition. The brands that do, and that do it the best, will be the ones we all remember and connect with the strongest long after the recovery has taken place.

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