Celebrating 40 years of creative advertising: #31: Michigan Department of Health and Human Services – COVID response

Kaitlynn Crane 03/14/24 - 10:48 am

Celebrating 40 years of creative advertising: #31: Michigan Department of Health and Human Services – COVID response

Think back to March 2020. As the coronavirus started to make its way around the world, the air was thick with fear and worry, and our hearts were burdened by the unknown. With such limited information, everything from grocery shopping to family gatherings were colored with anxiety. And when we added masking, social distancing, contact tracing and quarantining into the mix… we were truly living in unprecedented times.

As the pandemic began to unfold, the need for clear and concise communication became paramount. So, with that, our long-time partners at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services called on us to craft impactful campaigns that would disseminate vital information.

Quickly accessing our deep knowledge of Michiganders, in combination with our third-party research tools, we built out multi-channel media plans including TV, cable, radio, print, CTV, Hulu, Spotify, Pandora, digital and social. We worked with radio stations to translate ads and target Hispanic and Arabic populations. We developed customized messaging for African American populations, as this demographic had the highest number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths. We reached out to Google and secured a $1 million grant. We worked with Facebook on securing more than $300,000 in Facebook credits. And in the first eight weeks of the pandemic, we nearly doubled the value of media received.

Through all mediums, we shared accurate and up-to-date facts about the virus, preventive measures, and resources available for assistance – giving the public the knowledge they needed to make informed decisions. Emphasizing the collective responsibility of Michiganders to protect one another, every asset was made to foster a sense of community and unity, curb the spread of the virus, and protect public health. Here are just a few of our efforts…


In April 2020, we created the #MIMaskChallenge campaign – calling on local celebrities, religious leaders, politicians and everyday Michiganders to send in photos for the spot. We placed the utmost importance on wearing a mask and extended an invitation to come together on social media, in a time when we were otherwise very much apart. (Note: This was before the recommendation to use medical-grade masks.)

Forward Not Backward

The following month, we encouraged people to keep standing six feet apart, as social distancing was proving to be a promising way to stop the spread. And since we couldn’t be together to shoot a spot, we got creative with stock footage and special effects.

Put To The Test

When tests for the virus became widely accessible, the state needed to promote their importance and help people find testing sites in their area. Across many mediums, we pointed people to nearby locations to help prioritize public health.

Ball’s In Your Court

Partnering with coaches from the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, we scripted a spot that showed everyone was on the same team, with the same goal: stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Spread Hope

Amidst the challenges, we witnessed communities coming together, supporting one another and demonstrating a commitment to the well-being of all. Thus, when pandemic fatigue started to set in, we celebrated Michigan’s strength and resilience, and we shared a message of hope for the future.

Auld Lang Syne

During the holiday season, the prospect of indoor gatherings posed a significant threat, because the virus had a higher transmission risk in enclosed spaces. With that, we urged Michiganders to prevent potential outbreaks and lighten the physical and mental load placed on our health care providers.

Vaccine Path

By providing transparent and evidence-based information, we worked to combat a new, deeply politicized issue: vaccine hesitancy. This strategic approach aimed to address concerns and generate a sense of confidence.

Dose of Hope

To continue building confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine before its release to the public, we collaborated with health care professionals – using these trusted community members to communicate its safety, efficacy and importance.

My Why

With vaccination a priority, we conducted a statewide survey and focus groups to understand attitudes and beliefs. To hasten consideration, community partners and market research suggested presenting personal stories. So, with that, we abandoned scripts and storyboards and hit the streets – asking real people, with real emotions, why they chose to get vaccinated.

The My Why campaign was launched via TV, CTV, streaming, YouTube, outdoor, print, digital, social media, convenience store posters, gas pump toppers and gas station TV. In total, we developed more than 25 TV spots, 20 radio spots, 40 digital units and hundreds of social media posts.

As time passed in 2021, we continued promoting the vaccine that was tested for safety and trusted by doctors, which included 300+ assets across TV, radio, print, outdoor, social, display and more. And the work went on to win at the Healthcare Advertising Awards and Summit International Creative Awards.

Results Worth Sharing

Throughout the early days of the pandemic (March – September 2020), our work went on to earn the following:

  • 500+ million TV and cable media impressions
  • 30+ million video views via streaming sites
  • 35+ million impressions via audio streaming
  • 21+ million video views, 84+ million impressions and 270,000+ clicks to the website via digital
  • 77+ million impressions, 16+ million video views and 520,000+ clicks to the website via social media
  • 12,000+ radio spots on urban, Hispanic, and Arab American radio stations
  • 5+ million video views, 27+ million impressions and 89,000+ clicks to the website through digital campaigns specifically targeting the African American audience

By June 2020, Michigan cases had dropped substantially compared to many other states, where they were rising at record numbers. Additionally, less than 10% of research participants said they sometimes or never wore a mask, meaning 90% always or usually did. Michigan was also nationally recognized for its response in decreasing racial disparities around COVID – all positive changes that have ultimately, and thankfully, helped put the pandemic in the past.

To see the rest of the 40 Best of Brogan, visit our original post in this series: Celebrating 40 years of creative advertising.

Blog Category: Brogan Healthcare

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