MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - In a matter of days you’ll likely be seeing or hearing a new $400,000 advertising push by the Tennessee Department of Health, urging residents to get vaccinated against a handful of dangerous illnesses.
Back in March, the state announced the campaign, partly in response to an increase in the numbers of measles cases nationally and an anti-vaccination movement.
A Memphis firm is behind the creation of the message.
As of Monday, the CDC reports nearly 1,100 cases of measles nationwide so far in 2019. It’s the highest number in the U.S. since 1992 and since measles was declared eliminated back in 2000. Health officials in Tennessee report five measles cases so far this year.
The state’s vaccination education effort focuses on influenza, human papillomavirus, measles, mumps, and pertussis, or whooping cough.
“One of the things we wanted to do when approaching it was, how can we separate and elevate this message for the state,” said Keith Goldberg, Partner and Executive Creative Director at Sullivan Branding.
Goldberg said surveys of parents revealed most messaging on the topic was ominous and somewhat scary to hear.
“That kind of tension, that kind of drawing you in, is something we really thought could break through,” he said.
That’s why he said the campaign emphasizes vaccination by telling the story from the perspective of the viruses themselves.
“Hi I’m influenza, here with my friends HPV and measles. We’re doing a little social networking,” the characters said, “It’s ok if you don’t like us because we like you.”
The Mid-South has played a leading role in driving the national conversation on the importance of vaccines.
In March, LeBonheur Children’s Hospital’s Pediatrician-in-Chief Dr. Jon McCullers testified before a Senate committee on the importance of boosting vaccine rates in the U.S.
“Unfortunately, the issues of vaccine opposition and vaccine hesitancy are impairing our ability to ensure vaccine coverage aided by state laws that make it easier to avoid vaccination,” McCullers told lawmakers.
Arkansas allows medical, religious, and philosophical exemptions for vaccines.
Tennessee allows medical and religious exemptions, while Mississippi only allows exemptions for medical reasons.
Tennessee’s vaccination education effort will include broadcast television and radio ads, including movie theater ads, bus wraps, and other forms of media. It is set to run through October 2020.