CLEMENGER BBDO , Wellington / UNITE AGAINST COVID-19 / 2021
We weren’t prepared. Only months before COVID-19 swept the world, New Zealand ranked just 35th in the world for pandemic preparedness. A large-scale outbreak would cripple our health system. With the New Zealand public’s compliance of government messaging below 50%, we needed to inspire collective action in a culture that actively pushed against conformity.
We were tasked with creating a flexible platform that could guide New Zealanders and prompt immediate action throughout the changing landscape of the pandemic –in just one week. In that time we had to develop the platform identity, look and feel, tone of voice, comms and targeting strategy, official information website, and distil a multitude of asks to make them approachable and achievable.The platform itself needed the flex to be able to pre-empt, adapt and react to the unknown and constant evolution of New Zealand’s situation.
Within seven days, the brand was launched to the public.
Unite Against COVID-19 is a human response to a health crisis, centred around our people, not the virus. It galvanised New Zealanders around a central idea –one we could all rally behind, take pride in and own. A brand identity of beauty, hope, humour and heart, every touchpoint reinforced our individual role in achieving our collective purpose. With clarity. Humanity. And sensitivity.
Our audience was every single New Zealander, so Unite Against had to appeal and adapt universally. Rather than a top-down directive from government, it was a call to participate, giving Kiwis ownership of the platform. A two-way dialogue that empowered them with the tools and vernacular to take our messages and spread them for themselves – ingraining Unite Against firmly within culture.
Working with policy leads, we reviewed pandemic strategies available (e.g., elimination, sequestration, mitigation), identifying the stretch and flexibility required from the platform.
With psychosocial response experts we learned compliance relied on avoiding overwhelm and hopelessness, and emotional management.
We researched New Zealand’s cultural relationship with rules, authority and ability to act as a collective, finding NZ is less comfortable with authority and less likely to cooperate than nations with effective COVID-19 responses.
We scanned global communication efforts to persuade the public to comply. Many focused on the health threats.
Re-position compliance for individualistic, non-conforming Kiwis.
Build a team of 5 million active fighters of the virus through:
A human response to a health crisis.
From enforced restriction to a winning plan.
From top down directive to a call to participate.
From a crisis to endure to a challenge to take on.
From the Government’s responsibility to a team sport.
Instead of centring around the virus, Unite Against COVID-19 firmly placed our people at its heart. A human approach that gave deeper meaning and purpose to the asks.
Friendly iconography, typefaces and colours injected humanity into the platform. A considered mix of heart, humour and education imbued our tone with empathy and positivity. Every touchpoint moved New Zealanders to action through emotion and reason –seeking to foster calm and compassion, not fear.
Anticipating the emotional journey of people during lockdown (weirdness, anxiety, frustration, boredom), we connected emotionally at key moments. While earlier executions appealed to a sense of collective patriotism, others used humour to beat boredom and frustration. Each lever kept people in it at the right moments; keeping the information fresh, and the momentum going.
Translated across 20+ languages and countless media placements, the consistency of messaging and visual cohesion created a single source of truth for New Zealanders.
No pandemic response has been so loved and cherished by its people; provoking pride, trust and action. Unite Against has ingrained within Kiwi culture, won global hearts and praise, and become the text-book response to a health crisis. New Zealand’s continued freedom and countless lives saved are testament to how we all rallied behind Unite Against.
-Campaign awareness reached 97%
-Understanding of Alert Levels, 86%
-Trust in government information, 88%
-92% of Kiwis consistently did what was asked of them
-NZ achieved the lowest death rate per capita in the OECD.
New Zealanders have owned it, too. Unite Against has become ingrained in Kiwi culture, with the brand identity playfully applied across everything from birthday cakes to wines labels, fashion and album sleeves. It’s even now been immortalised on a Lego character featuring New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern; signalling the marker of the moment that Unite Against has become.