Reaching the wait-and-see person: Ad Council's campaign leader on messaging strategies for COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy

The Ad Council and CDC in February launched a new campaign called "It's Up to You," which aims to help Americans feel more prepared about getting the COVID-19 vaccine and engage with individuals who are on the fence about getting inoculated.

In a March 5 interview with the American Medical Association, Heidi Arthur, chief campaign development officer at the Ad Council, shared some insights about the campaign's stance toward vaccine hesitancy and how it is targeting individuals who are still undecided.

Five quotes from Ms. Arthur:

1. On vaccine hesitancy research insights: "Basically, what we saw was, there was a significant size of the population that was in this wait and see mindset, and we're calling them the movable middle. They were not ready to say 'I'm going to get vaccinated when it becomes available to me.'"

2. On education opportunities around trust: "…We saw a big opportunity because we learned that there were issues surrounding trust. People were not confident. They didn't feel like they had the information they needed to make that decision for themselves, and there were a host of reasons why they just weren't feeling confident that this was the right thing to do."

3. On the difference between the "movable middle" and people who are decidedly against getting the vaccine: "There were people who were just resistant and we just, we're not going to be able to persuade them with messaging and it's not a significant amount of the population. So, there's a big opportunity here to reach people who again, are just waiting and seeing. Many people are saying, 'I'm going to wait maybe four months before I decide to do this,' for a number of different reasons."

4. On the need to understand people's distrust of the vaccine: "It was important for us to understand differences across cultures, but by and large, what we saw, there were big concerns around trust. Is this safe? There were concerns around the efficacy of the vaccine, that it happened too quickly. How do I know that it's going to be okay for me? It was important for us to really understand this in order to develop messages that were really going to resonate."

5. On convincing the wait-and-see person: "It was important for us to really understand the do's and don'ts around messaging. So, we tested several different frameworks and really felt that we had to normalize the hesitancy. Questions are normal and it's okay. This is something new and we had to honor that, and have empathy for it. But beyond that, we also had to provide some emotional reason why I should really, take this step to educate myself. So, really, helping people understand that this is going to help them get back to the people, the human connections, the moments, that we're all craving so much. But we learned that this has to be about public education and information."


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