To create more positive and effective messaging around COVID-19 health guidelines, Civic Entertainment Group is partnering with Giphy on the #ImAProtector public-service campaign, which is aimed at reducing illness due to COVID-19 while battling pandemic fatigue.

To kick off the effort, Civic’s cultural insights and strategy agency Cultique, led by Linda Ong, conducted research in partnership with the University of Michigan. The partners were looking for ways to craft unifying—rather than divisive—messaging around the pandemic.

RELATED: How Cultique Will Work at the Speed of Culture

The research found that people are more receptive to being told to wear a mask and other public health activities when those actions are closely connected to showing concern for loved ones, communities and humanity in general. Just telling people to “wear a mask” or attempting to scare or shame them, was, in cases of already resistant people, further entrenching them and creating increased opposition. It was that dynamic that Civic looked to change.

“This approach turns it into a choice, asking people to think about why they were adopting this behavior and who they were protecting. It reframes the whole conversation,” said Nate Schreiber, Co-CEO and head of people at Civic Entertainment Group.

The #ImAProtector campaign encourages people to wear a mask, wash their hands, stay socially distanced and get vaccinated for the sake of others. In looking for a theme to anchor the campaign, Civic reflected on its years of work with brands around San Diego Comic-Con, where superheroes like Batman and Superman are the stars of the show.

“We just felt like we were in a situation where simple changes in everyday behavior have the potential to have outsize impact and to save lives,” Schreiber said. “That’s what’s been fueling comic-book success for decades.”

Using a graphics-novel style inspired by Comic-Con, Civic created a whole range of assets for people to use that they can grab for free on Giphy.

#ImAProtector: “Wear a Mask”
#ImAProtector: “Hero Tiara”

Civic launched the campaign by having its employees use the assets to post about their efforts to protect others on Civic’s social channels as well as their own.

Civic employee shares her story on a comic-book style trading card.
Civic employee shares her story on a comic-book style trading card.
Civic's Jimmy emphasizes hand-washing in his story.
Civic’s Jimmy emphasizes hand-washing in his story.

Already, the messaging is taking hold: Users have uploaded nearly 50 million of the #ImAProtector assets and used them to create their own social-media posts.

Beyond the #ImAProtector initiative, Cultique has assembled a non-profit, non-partisan coalition of universities, organizations, the media and entertainment industry to model and normalize safe COVID-19 behavior in content. Organizations include NIH, the Ad Council, the Writers Guild of America and the Office of the Governor of California, while such content creators as Tina Fey’s Little Stranger, Universal Studio Group, HBO Max and ITV America are participating.

“We want to celebrate and reward people who are exhibiting the right behavior,” said Schreiber. “We want to give them positive reinforcement that they were doing their part. Who doesn’t want to see themselves as a superhero? Now everyone has that power.”

Tags: civic entertainment group covid-19 cultique giphy imaprotector linda ong nate schreiber

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