From celebrities to sex: how different country’s adverts encourage people to get the coronavirus vaccine

From celebrities to sex: how different country’s adverts encourage people to get the coronavirus vaccine

Governments are at war with vaccine hesitancy.

In countries like France, the US and Germany, uptake has slowed and there have been calls for more creative vaccination offers to combat this. Some areas in America have been giving people Krispy Kreme doughnuts in return for them getting jabs and others have started lotteries where vaxxed people can win big.

But these measures can only go so far, so governments have partnered with the advertising industry in all its glory to persuade people that jabs are great. All using different tacks, some have shoehorned the notion that sex sells into the vaccine discourse while others have enlisted the support of celebrities. Others still have to utterly scare the s*** out of their citizens and some have made some pretty catchy songs.

Here’s how different countries’ covid jab campaigns compare.


The Spanish are tugging remorselessly on viewers’ heartstrings. Their advert shows an elderly woman alone in her house. Her fridge has a children’s drawing stuck to it with “we miss you grandma” heartbreakingly written on it. All she can do - due to social distancing - is sudoku puzzles. Until the vaccine, of course.

The doorbell rings and she answers it to reveal her family - her daughter and two grandchildren standing hesitantly on her porch until she gives a reassuring nod and they pile in to smother each other with hugs and kisses.

“Vaccines against Covid-19 are here. And soon, this day too,” appears on the screen.

I’m not crying, you’re crying.


France has opted for a different approach. A health authority in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur regional health authority promotes the coronavirus jab with an image of a couple passionately kissing in the back of a car alongside the tagline: “Yes, the vaccine can have desirable effects.”

The advert was designed to encourage young people to come forward for their Covid vaccine and flips the idea of vaccines having adverse side effects on its head. Other more PG versions show families playing on the beach, young people enjoying a festival and a couple hugging.

“With each vaccination, life starts again - let’s vaccinate,” the strapline reads.

You heard the country!


“Roll up your sleeves!” cries the punchy Scottish NHS advert aimed at young people. The video shows a DJ saying she wants to “get back to doing what I love” and another person saying she “wants to get all my pals together”.

Another says the vaccine is safe and another warns that people can get seriously ill from coronavirus at any age.

All roll up their sleeves and brandish their forearms at the camera. Galvanizing stuff.


The English government has gone down the route of throwing as many celebrities in front of the camera as they can until everyone is vaccinated.

A recent advert, unveiled as the NHS celebrated its 73rd birthday, shows famous figures including David Walliams, Jim Broadbent, Russell Tovey, Nicola Roberts and Asa Butterfield dancing around to the tune of “The Rhythm Of Life” from the 1966 musical Sweet Charity, and singing.

In another NHS ad released in February and aimed at older people, Elton John and Michael Caine lecture people about the vaccine. It is filmed as a fake audition video with an out of shot director asking John to say lines differently and to pretend he has received the vaccine on air. Then, they get Caine instead who informs viewers that the vaccine “didn’t hurt”.

Listen, it’s no Spain but it does the job.


Italy has also gone down the celebrity route, this time with Helen Mirren. In a video, Mirren is doing some gardening on a roadside in Southern Italy, when a man stops to ask for directions and notices a mark on her arm where she’s had her jab.

They then sing and dance and have a passionate love affair because they are both jabbed, ok?

Part of the song goes: “I love to dance with you, O’Vacinada; face to face with this immunised old girl” and some people on social media thought it was a bit offensive.

To us, it’s pretty funny and if getting a vaccine is a sure-fire way to have a holiday romance in Italy then we can think of worse side effects.

New Zealand

Transport without masks, hairdressers, parties, restaurants, gyms. Ugh, inject them all into our veins. The NZ ad shows all of these scenes and informs the not-sentient-at-all-virus that “we are ready to fight”.

It’s not unusual for public health campaigns to personify illnesses to galvanise people against them (see Cancer Research UK’s “Cancer we are coming to get you” slogan in 2013) and this advert is no less punchy.

In one scene, two men press their faces together, unworried about their viral load due to their vaccines.

Take that, Covid?


Their neighbouring country, sadly, sends us straight to sleep. The government’s department of health created a sober animation with a monotone voiceover, informing citizens that they have purchased “enough vaccines for everyone” and that they have been “vigorously tested”.

Maybe boring people to the extent they want to put needles into their arms just to feel something is a deliberate government strategy... but who knows?

It may not have been that effective as they have released a new advert showing a woman gasping and fighting for breath in a hospital bed. The advert has been heavily criticised for leaning into scare tactics and fear and Dr Jessica Kaufman, a research fellow at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. Advertisement told The Guardian it could even increase vaccine hesitancy as it comes across as manipulative.

“We’ve seen with vaccination in particular that fear campaigns or scary messages about diseases can actually cause people to become more fearful of vaccine side-effects,” she said.

That’s a double swing and a miss from our friends Down Under, then.


Let’s go back to a more fun country, then shall we? The Singaporean government is using a catchy pop song featuring comedian Gurmit Singh reprising his role from a 1990s sitcom as Phua Chu Kang, an eccentric contractor.

The video debunks people’s concerns with taking the vaccine like whether it is dangerous for people with underlying conditions (it isn’t) and whether it is acceptable to rely on falling cases and the potential of herd immunity.

“Everybody it’s time to vaccinate, faster do lah, no time to wait!” he sings.

“The vaccine is not anyhow whack, and against Covid it will protect!”

Not whack? Sign us up.

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