Covid-19: brands are starting to help the effort, can agencies follow suit?

Starting today, LVMH boss Bernard Arnault has instructed his Perfumes and Cosmetics businesses to manufacture substantial quantities of alcohol-based gel.

The move includes designer names Christian Dior, Guerlain, and Parfums Givenchy, all of which will be producing large quantities of the gel to be delivered free of charge to the French health authorities.

An LVMH statement confirmed it will continue to honour this commitment for as long as necessary, in connection with the French health authorities.

In West Belfast, Iceland Foods will be opening its Kennedy Centre store between 8-9am for the elderly starting this Tuesday, with the wider public asked to respect this time slot.

Meanwhile the UK government is to step up its communications with daily TV briefings on coronavirus from Number 10 Downing Street.

Advertising might seem like a sideline at a time like this, but a good, clear message could unify the country and bring some certainty around behaviours.

“Keep Calm and Carry On” was produced by the British government in 1939 in preparation for World War II and it still resonates today. Although it’s interpreted now as an excuse to keep the party going, whereas at the time it conveyed self-discipline and promoted adherence to strict rules such as blackout curfews.

World War I brought us Lord Kitchener’s “Your Country Needs You,” which remains in the public consciousness more than a century later.

In the 80s a public health campaign introduced another forceful message, “Don’t Die of Ignorance,” in the battle against AIDS. TBWA set out deliberately to scare people into reading the government leaflets, and the film was directed by Nic Roeg, known for David Bowie’s “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” and chosen for his gloomy ski-fi aesthetic.

Can advertising safe your life? Not it can’t, but it can get people to take notice and build a common cause to rally around. This government, once its message is sorted, will need something better than “Get Covid-19 Done” to promote it.

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